Can we talk?
I live in a country of unending bucolic nature, ubiquitous goodness, inherent generosity, frighteningly high quality food and internationally renowned wine. A walk in town means absorbing the reverberation of 12th century stone; old men meet on the corner and talk about last night’s soccer results as their wives buy handmade roasted veal ravioli from the local producer. The smell of wood burning pizza ovens mingles with the fragrance of onions frying in olive oil as the lunch hour nears, and Enzo the fish monger waves out to me, holding up an entire salmon and smiling. The bars switch from serving coffee to serving aperitivi of sweet and dry vermouth, Aperol and Campari along side free buffets of goat cheese marinated in olive oil and peperoncino, spinach frittate and bruschetta.
It’s also a land that, because it outlaws nuclear power, buys nuclear power from countries like France and Switzerland, marks it up by exponential quantities and serves it to us in such fits and starts that the power surges are very capable of blowing out the circuitry of major appliances. Big ceramic kilns, for example.
It’s been the week of the meltdown. Unfortunately, no glazes were involved in the process. Only the potter was in a puddle on the floor.
I get frustrated when things don’t go my way. I get hurt and offended, as if the utility company and the kiln conspired in the playground to beat me up during recess.
I figured I had two choices. Get the kiln fixed, hope for the best, or buy a new (smaller, more transportable) kiln when I least need to be spending money on one. But in this part of the country, the possibility of finding an individual who repairs German industrial ceramic kilns is as likely as having a a really bad meal. It just ain’t gonna happen. The new (smaller, more transportable) kiln is on its way. From Germany. To sit proudly next to its sick, monstrous brother until mommy can figure out how to make it all better.
After all this, I could barely stand up straight. Italy had attacked me again. It had gone straight for the jugular this time. My creative artery. My kiln. My precious kiln that I had dragged with me out of my basement studio in Hamburg with the help of two Croatians, a tractor and a forklift and that had made it here in one piece only to be shoved by the builders from location to location until finally finding its home in my new studio. My cavernous kiln that had seen all of my early glazing nightmares and had produced my best pieces. My kiln that I had worried over, fretted about, woken up to check in the night and referenced in prayer more than once (please let that turquoise glaze stick to the bowl and not run all over the place. Please).
I cried in the shower for a long time. It was so long that my husband finally poked his head in and said, “Come on,it’s almost evening. It’s just a friggen’ oven. Let’s take the dog out for a walk.”
Walk? In my state? How unfeeling could he really be? Didn’t he understand the creative gut-kicking I had just taken? I dragged myself out of the shower, put on a cursory amount of red lipstick and foundation (all crying jags by women in their fifties need to be immediately followed by red lipstick and foundation), dressed in, well, I don’t remember and plopped myself down into the passenger’s seat of the car.
Max ran like a fool, rolled in the rows between the vines. We walked for miles. Micha put his arms around me. He gave me the list of benefits I would have with a smaller kiln. I’ll be able fire more often. Experiment more with glazes. The big kiln always meant that I had to work for at least four weeks to make enough things to fill it. Now I would be able to fire it after a couple of weeks of throwing and building and sculpting. Try new things without feeling guilty about wasting too much electricity. I’ll be able to fire more often during the season. Sell more. It’s a good thing that big oven finally blew, he laughed.
What a moment. What a day.
Sometimes here in Italy, I get exhausted from making lemonade out of lemons. I get sick of putting on a brave front and pushing forward. And then sometimes, I am reminded how good I have it. For all the things it forces me to do and to think through and to accept, Italy is the biggest single blasted lesson of my life.
I am holding on to my old, big kiln for now. Who knows. Maybe there’s a German kiln technician looking at my website right this instant, thinking about booking a vacation. Can you spell barter?
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. That’s kind of how things work here.