This morning I woke to perfect quiet.
The B&B season is over. The golden tinge of the distant fields revealed itself as the morning mist was driven away by an ever descending sun. I made my way, coffee in hand, to my pottery studio, where a greenware platter awaited me. I’m trying something different this time – a traditional piece. It’s not in my normal repertoire, but I’m doing it for three reasons.
First: discipline. These classic pieces, well ornamented, require dedication and patience.
Second: improvement. I want to improve my skill level, and there is no better way to do that than by focusing on the technical skills of a craft.
Third: this piece uses a material called copper carbonate. Copper carbonate is a raw material that farmers use in the Piedmontese country side for a variety of purposes. Mixed with water, they spray crystalline copper carbonate on vines to keep fungus growth from multiplying. The local contadini also make a paint from copper carbonate, chalk and linseed oil that is used to paint wood. This mixture creates a paint of a sea green color and protects the wood from wood worms over generations.
The technique used on this piece is the traditional European art of sgraffito. I’ve painted something called an engobe (which is a mixture of clay, water, quartz and colorant – in this case, copper carbonate) onto a hand built 15 inch platter, and then I’ve literally scratched away the excess, leaving a slightly raised design in the leather-hard clay. Once it’s dried, it will be bisque fired, and then I will glaze it with a tin-rich glaze (this helps copper to develop into a green color), and fire to 1240 degrees C. This high temperature causes the glass in the clay to vitrify with the glass in the glaze, forming a chip-proof bond – the essential characteristic of stoneware. Here’s a more contemporary sgraffito piece that I made a few years ago:
In keeping with this tradition, the internationally acclaimed artist Alzek Misheff and his wife, architect Eleonora Ricci have created a project entitled La Corte del Verderame (the Court of Green Copper). They are in the process of restoring an ancient cascina outside of Acqui Terme using natural materials such as limestone and copper. The cascina will be used for major artist events and installations. I sat down recently with Alzek and Eleanora and discussed the project – and am now working to create ceramics that celebrate the use of copper.
With La Corte del Verderame, Alzek and Eleonora are providing the chance to participate in an artistic movement that is based on values I hold dear: reusing existing materials, connecting with the fundamental goodness of the zone which I call home, restoring derelict buildings using low carbon impact materials and techniques, and creating beauty that is at once simple and meaningful.
This is good. It’s really, really good. I find it impossible to dismiss that since the day I opened my pottery studio in Hamburg in 2000, copper carbonate has been the single most important coloring agent I’ve used in pots. Anyone who knows my work knows how many acqua, turquoise and soft green pots I create. Almost of those are created using copper carbonate. And now, I’ve run with my arms wide open in to a project put together by international artists in my own home town of Acqui Terme who consider this material to be so important that they’ve designed an entire creative movement around it?
I move lightly in this world, amazed at what I’ve uncovered, and how things ultimately join forces to move me forward. I’m humbled by the events I experience.
When I feel so tired that I don’t think I can go on, my words are on the verge of being published, of being released internationally, and I don’t even really completely understand how that happened.
When all I can think about is laying my head down and closing my eyes, I experience one of the most satisfying and beautiful season of guests that this bed and breakfast has ever seen.
And now, when I just want to relax an aching back, I open myself up to a creative movement that speaks to everything I believe in as an artist and a woman on this planet.
These things remind me that this short existence can be packed with meaning and purpose. And every day that we wake up, regardless what we wake up to, is another chance to manifest that meaning and purpose.
What I’m reading this week:
What I’m listening to this week:
What I’m doing this week:
Guest blogging for my new book True Vines, working in the pottery studio, walking in the vineyards with Micha and Max, cooking fall foods like pumpkin soup, lentil stew, and polenta.