Tuesday, April 24, 2012

welcome to the tea bowl project

I began this project for year three of the time project -- an endeavor by a group of artists who commit to making one piece of art on a regular basis for a year and sharing their process each month with the other members of the group. 

In the first year I produced the goddess project and ultimately a book, 52 goddesses

Last year I produced a series of collages based on photographs that I took during the previous week.

This year I have returned to my root medium, clay, to produce tea bowls,  small ceramic bowls inspired by those used in a Japanese tea ceremony. Each is unique in shape and glaze, and meant to feel good when held in the hands. 

Each week I take one of the finished bowls and go in search of someone to give it to -- someone I don't know. In return I ask to take a photograph of the person's hands holding the bowl. 

My intention is to break through the barrier that separates us on the street, offer a gift to a stranger, and have some conversation -- to truly encounter someone new each week. 

I come home, print the photograph, and write about what happened for me at our meeting.

I now have given away seven bowls . . . the images and writing are below . . . and from this time on I will post images weekly as the project continues . . . I look forward to your reactions and comments.

Bowl One: Anitra
Heart pounding.
Wind strong.
Will this work?

A woman fishing.
Catch anything?
Not yet.

I offer the bowl.
She looks puzzled.
Then smiles.
Wind dies down.
Weight drops away.
The sun is shining.

Bowl Two: Sean

Long walk with Sam
Who is too shy for a photo
But talks happily of his life and family.
We part and I see Sean
Resting, eating, enjoying the day.
We share a smile.
A few words.
He takes the bowl
and really looks at it.

Bowl Three: Angeline

Sitting in the sun
plugged into her music,
Angeline makes space for me on her bench,
and takes out her earbuds.

You take the photo, she says
then I'll give the bowl back to you
and you can pass it on to someone else.

You keep it, I say,
and pass it on if you like.
 Her smile lights up the day.

"My momma called me Angeline
'cause she said I looked like an angel when I was born."

Still do, I think.

Days later we meet again
and hug, heart to heart. 

Bowl Four: Loretta

Calm and beautiful
she sits waiting for the bus.
I pass by, and then again . . . and finally approach.

She is delighted!
Why me? she asks.
I murmur something about her rings.
But really it's her halo of grey hair,
and the stillness of her being.

And yes, the rings
that speak of a soul moved by beauty.

We say a few more words
and her bus appears.
She rises and boards 
with a grace the belies her age
and her walking stick.

Bowl Five: Terry

Her baby cradled in her arms,
she watches the bigger kids on swings and slides.
The baby - Tula - is irresistible
chubby cheeks, laughing eyes.

She loves the bowl -
but I think she loves the photo best.
The bowl, cradled in her strong, beautiful hands.
I'll send her one, I promise. 
And I do.

Bowl Six: John

Keeping a keen eye on three rods resting on the shore
he relaxes in the shade.
"You can catch a 28 pound salmon here," he says.
   "That's a lot of eatin'," I reply.
"No, I just catch them and throw them back," he smiles big.
"I'm here every day. I just catch them and let them go."

Bowl Seven: Robert

I've seen him here before,
standing on this very spot, 
selling Spare Change.
Been doing it for six years, he said.
My brother too, before he died.

A young woman walks by - 
"Buy Spare Change," he asks.
She hesitates, then pulls out a fiver . . 

I'm surprised.
He is gracious.

People are generous he tells me.
And, it's hard, really heart living in shelters,
on the street.

But I can use this . . . 
and he takes the bowl.
Wraps it carefully in his jacket,
And puts it in his bag.