Music – Ghosteen, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
It seems to have been raining for days, sifting relentlessly out of a white sky with no distance in it. Everything is soaked, even the birds look like bits of footwear fished out of a canal. The blueblack paths are pasted with leaves orange, yellow, red. Incessant soft unceasing rain slows time, and brings with it a sense of ennui and nostalgia. Everything mists up and you start to feel like a minor character in an underread Japanese novel.
One of our challenges last week was nearly running out of clay. As you know, we recycle everything at Mud Station, from handbuilding offcuts to wheel disasters to slip and throwing water, it all gets turned back into workable clay; but more and more of it (ideally) gets turned into something that someone wants to keep, and supplies run a bit low, and we look at one another and go ‘when shall we order more clay…?’ and then we go and do something else, and then the cycle gets shorter till we are scraping dust off the floor and the walls and rehydrating it … ok, it’s not that intense. But at one point we did have slurry drying in plaster sinks in the hope that it would be ok to throw with the day after next.
And it was.
The standard half a ton of buff clay duly arrived (shout out to Scarva who managed to put our order together even though their suppliers had let them down) and we stacked the 12 kilo slabs in the basement with audible groans of relief.
We have so many lovely people each week coming through, sitting at the wheels or round the table in the big room, handbuilding, throwing, glazing, trimming, drinking, talking … recalling an average week is like watching a stop-motion film where the kiln door opens and closes, wheels stop and start, fingers furl and dart, pots appear and disappear everywhere, on every shelf, tabletop, and box-lid; and people flit to and fro and cobbles of clay leap out of the bag as ideas get made real.
Our friend John Christie sent us one of his pots: fresh from his wood kiln, with that shiny stippled surface you get from soda firing and a deeply satisfying red burnish that comes from a long controlled cool. Inside there’s a scatter of little gold flecks, I don’t know how he got those. We’ve been gloating over it ever since it arrived very well packed in the post, and taking turns to drink from it. Thank you John.
The temperature is falling. There’s a figment of ice in the air most nights. Christmas is coming, like a regiment, and we are warily preparing ourselves to meet its requirements. I don’t know about you but I love it and hate it. Part of me loves the hospitality, the sharing, the atmosphere; and part of me hates the way it can throw people together unprepared, never mind the steroidal commercialisation and incitements to financial recklessness and the avalanche of packaging and spoilt food and Christmassy weirdness that spreads like a shiny, rustly fungus.
So we put on our boots and go out into the woods, and breathe, allowing our minds to unspool and widen and drift among the trees. It’s deep autumn, still, it will soon be winter, but look: the moon is full, glowing like the inch of wax below the flame, and the trees smell good. Remember that we’re not determined by what we can afford, nor should our desires be mediated by commercial interests.
The Japanese have a phrase we like – Shinrin-Yoku, 森林浴 or Forest Bathing. We can recommend a long quiet walk in the woods as a way of decluttering your mind, and reopening your sense of who you are. The poet Emily Dickinson wrote of living with her soul ‘ajar’ to the world, but the world we live in today is so loud, especially at this time of year, that we need to consciously seek ways of being open that are healthy, and enable us to make meaningful connections.
One other way of doing that, of course, is to make something with your own hands. A couple of hours engaging with clay brings you closer to your own profundity than a whole year buying things off the internet, and I always think that something you make yourself never wears out – if you look after it your pot will last for years (there are neolithic pots in the Museum of Scotland which are 5,000 years old) but even if it breaks, you will always have made it. It belongs to you in a deeper way.
Full moon tonight. Keep warm, mull yourself some wine and share it with someone you love.
Thank you for reading. More words soon.