SOHI reader and ceramicist Steve composed this small piece for his recent exhibition of ceramics at Watters Gallery in Sydney in January. He writes about mindfulness of locality, materials, and his inner creative dialogue – the mindful voice of the inner artist.
“It’s been just over eight years since I discovered the Joadja bai tunze native porcelain stone deposit near Mittagong and started making my special bai tunze and washed gravel bowls. I work alone, I tend to work directly from my emotions and intuitions, so if I have any objective, it is this; that I work independently using only what I can fashion myself from my own local resources. My work always addresses beauty and the contemplation of beauty and my interaction with the natural word. My failure to adequately achieve this is what drives my search.
My main concern at the current time is to envisage some sort of relationship or engagement between intellect and passion, thought and action, trying to bring some harmony into my own troubled existence through the creation of beautiful objects while dealing with the tensions and anxieties of a modern life. A life that I am attempting to live ethically and responsibly. It is easy and glib to rattle off such statements, but very difficult to walk the walk, to actually live it.
My hundred moons of solitude have allowed me to indulge my introspection and I have come to realise that Garcia-Marquez was talking to me when he discovered that place, the gap between reality and fantasy, the realm where inspiration lies. Reality is all tough, hard work, fantasy is much more plastic and malleable, like clay. I feel that I ought to write something profound about this, but fail to. I would have liked to have written something meaningful perhaps about Henryk Gorecki and Arvo Part’s spiritual minimalism and radical simplification and how it’s influenced my radical localism and minimal spirituality, but apparently not.
I wish that I could have written about my desire for beauty and simplicity, my trips to Japan, where I failed to find my muse and how simplicity is so complex that it is indescribable and how trying to make something elegant, simple and uncomplicated, simply isn’t simple or uncomplicated.
I’d like to have said that the many long hours spent doing mindless manual work like the sorting of little white granules of quartz from the dross of dark rubble found on an ants nest, so as to get just the ‘right’ textured grit to add to my clay body, is actually exhilarating in the achievement of it, and that the most boring job of grinding stones down to dust so as to make a glaze can be very rewarding.
I wanted to express something of the beauty and the rewards in the many little steps in the creative process, no-matter what they are and that I’m actually starting to realize that I’m often happiest labouring at this tedious nonsense, not just because it is leading to something bigger, (which it is) but because each step, each event, is complete in itself, as an act of beauty. They coalesce to create the beautiful, elegant whole that are these works. But I didn’t.
Probably all the better.
I failed to find my muse, I continue to fail to create it, I fail to write about it meaningfully and I fail to adequately describe my failure. Isn’t life a beautiful and complex thing!”