how-to story

I'm fascinated by the elemental gifts of the Earth.

Particularly attractive is in how versatile they can be--singularly, and in the aggregate--in the construction of entirely new things.

Arriving home this afternoon, a stark contrast was apparent: my walk and stoop had been power-washed!

Concrete holds me in deep thought by virtue of the battle between its short-lived elasticity, and the seemingly permanent nature of its maturity.

"Concrete reality" one might say, as the idea is formed and cemented, only to be broken by the awareness of how truly fluid it is as this thought pours-forth.

Clay, particularly, is the one gift of the Earth that has endured in my thoughts; in my life.

My Dad has always been a potter--even when he chose to be other, I still consider him so--and I love to think about all the ways my being party to such creativity has led me to contain these thoughts; how this awareness has so shaped the vessel of who I am, today.

Digging in clay; portioning; shaping; forming; touching; creating; destroying; holding; re-forming; casting; firming....

All these things brought to bear in the translation of pure thought into solid form through one's hands, that another might hold and appreciate such thinking in their very own.

I had a break from digging in the clay of Georgia--still, baking in the heat of Summer--yesterday, that I might work with the product of such things in an entirely different way.

In the ground, plants have the freedom to grow into their content, roots spreading as far as they would, choosing their own path, searching for more life.

In our gardening, we rely upon the care and attention of others dedicated to the task as they nurse seeds and sprouts through the early stages of their growth, that these plants be strong enough to face their uprooting, and be adopted into new gardens where they may mature as they will.

Grown to a point where they are able to subsist autonomously in devised substrates, the necessity of their unity with the substrate which holds and nourishes their roots predicates the containment of such during such a transition.

How appropos it is that the manipulation of the hydrocarbon chains gifted to us by the enduring remains of plants that lived their short, sweet time millions of years in the past does provide us with these durable plastic pots we use to make such a transition possible.

Even when this final adoption is at-hand, at times it is appropriate and almost oddly natural to contain these plants further in clay and concrete pots in order to highlight their singularity.

"potted plants", indeed.

Concrete as a medium lends well its durability and strength, yet the starkness of such does not always lend itself well to the softness we come to expect from such lovely creatures.

Clay, in the other hand, gifts a robust, pleasing affect, and melds well into such an aesthetic.

From the very beginning of my life, I have been surrounded by thousands of examples of these 'terracotta' (lit. "baked earth") potteries, even party to their formation as my father guided me with his hands, steady in their conviction.

Those of us who do, you see, so enjoy the creation of such things :)

The rawness of such things lends itself to embellishment, whether contrived, or merely that which comes to it, over time.

My eyes become glazed as I reflect all the many ways my father used minerals to further embellish such creations with layers of further creativity--matte, shiny, translucent, opaic in their depth, they did adhere and combine with the natural textures of these baked clays, clinging timelessly in so, so many ways.

I remember one particular alchemy where--in the slow, slow cooling from the additional fires necessary for such adhesion to these already-baked pots--a particular combination of certain minerals formed crystals, golden in their radiance as they radiated-out from a central point; circles of golden spokes 1cm up to 5cm in diameter.

When I asked my Dad if we could do this thing, again, he told me that he had not written the formulation down, thus these few examples of wonder were all we and others would have to enjoy.

I hold one, now, and its singularity has helped me to understand my father better as he laid certain things down, breaking the patterns of repetition to allow them their freedom, as well as his.

Garden terra-cotta pottery's porous state lends itself well to the retention and transmission of the waters and nutrients which sustain the plants, within.

Further, such a substrate lends well as purchase for algeas, lichens and other plants to grow, feeding them with the liquid and particulate transmissions from within, as well as those which overflow.

Through such a beautiful, lovely symbiosis do such patinas form.

The living 'glaze' seen in these photos takes many years to form of its own accord.

Sometimes, it is our desire to accelerate the process; to feed the creation of such a thing that this pottery's starkness be softened in a timely manner, and enhanced, creatively.

Many strategies are to be had, but I have gained experience in the failures and successes of such effort.

I take a putty knife, gently cleaving layers of the naturally-forming life which grows upon the tables, stanchions and walls of the moist environment of the platforms which hold and raise our greenhouse plants that we may care and appreciate them without stooping.

These cleavings I collect, mix and homogenize with whole-milk buttermilk and a small amount of dissolvable fertilizer.

I abstain from the addition of yogurts, as their dense viscosity does not lend itself well to absorption; that they do so cling, their crust interfering with the transmission, their blackened layers interfere, detracting from the aesthetic.

With a brush I paint this mixture upon the pottery. Careless in my carefulness, I later dapple with a sponge the same in obfuscation of such contrivity.

Making patina is not so much a forced act, but that these things may be consciously helped through guidance as they follow the paths of their creation.

On my stoop--barren the layers of its history--I sit here typing all these things with my right thumb, grateful for the patina of these memories that overlay it, still.

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