Moon: waxing crescent
Music: Goodbye to Language, Daniel Lanois
… wood, with a gift for burning
Adrienne Rich, Song
It’s been a busy couple of weeks at Mud Station. There’s so much to plan and organise, and much of the work I find physically rather hard. The simplicity and correctness of it keeps me going, keeps replenishing what fluency and pliancy I possess of body and spirit, and my own personal sense of joy – like the radio beam in the Adrienne Rich poem, which is like a secret directive and a homing beacon – so as long as I feel it, I know I am going in the right direction.
I come back to Adrienne Rich whenever I need uncompromising hope. She’s a writer who doesn’t shirk hard realities; but neither does she refuse to have visions.
The current round of beginner’s classes is coming to an end, so there is a lot of bisqueware stacked up in the basement waiting to be glazed. It’s like an Egyptian tomb down there.
I love it when people come to collect their pieces. They’ve finished their work and don’t always know what to expect – there’s something magical about a pot you’ve made yourself, especially if a few short weeks ago you thought of yourself as someone who couldn’t make a pot. And now it is in your hands, as unlikely as if you caught a meteorite.
I saw a shooting star the other night.
October is a gentle month. The world flares elegaically before it all goes wet and black. The light in every leaf, edging every tree, every cloud or grassblade, is like the glow from smelted ore, from a foundry door, or a great bonfire. It’s as if the sun is sinking into the woods, or behind those houses, cooling in a vast heap, its low golden light pooling around it as it goes out for the winter.
That’s the autumn sun. The winter sun is just the moon in drag.
I decided I need to know more about the moon. We are all sublunar – there is a tide that moves through everything, including ourselves, and I want to be more conscious of it.
To start with, I’m trying to notice the phases of the moon, where the moon is in relation to the sun, the earth, and the constellations. I’m living in a city with a regime of 24 hour internet shopping and constant illumination, a country with mad politics and a world in climate crisis, but at the same time I’m dwelling in a cosmos, which is significant, and also my home.
So, the moon.
A friend of mine claims not to be able to light her woodstove when the tide is turning. I don’t know whether at high tide or low tide, but the kindling is more reluctant to catch than at other times.
Cipriano Piccolpasso (1524-1579), author of Il Tre Libro del Arte del Vasaio (The Three Books of the Potter’s Art), maintains that firing a kiln by a waning moon results in a dull flame.
He fired by a new moon, to appease the gods.
On his second visit to Korea in 1935 Bernard Leach returned with a large, pale, globular pot: his first moon jar.
It’s a form that has preoccupied potters for generations, one which I intend to try. The form is simple, powerful, organic, and requires some technical discipline. The first few might not be keepers but I will keep going till I make something satisfying.
The moon can become preoccupying. There are potters who return to the full moon time and again, like Adam Buick or Akiko Hirai, working with porcelain and white engobes. And some of the works of Patricia Shone, her dark furrowed spheres, are like new moons.
Sylwia makes hemispherical vessels that I think of as half moons. They are tactile rough on the outside and bright-glazed on the inside; the dark side and the light, back to back.
She’s planning to make a very large one…
Thanks to everyone who is taking the time to read this journal. Over time I hope we can enable comments and get a conversation going. In the meantime, I will continue to post regularly about our life and work. More words soon.