Let us give Thanks

I received a text message the other day, with one of my dinner plates attached, asking about food safety.

Pictured: Corn Fossil plate with shino glaze, iron oxides and a lovely amount of carbon trapping. Also, for inquiries, don’t hesitate to send a message me for details.

I assured the person that the glaze, a lovely Shino, was indeed food safe, dishwasher safe, and microwave save (if they took the spinning thing out! Rotating square plates don’t get very far.) The text messages went back and forth a couple of times, to the point where I introduced myself and asked for the texters name. Karen introduced herself, then shared she had bought some of my plates at the pop up shop, that I helped manage, for the Art DTour/Fermentation Fest. In these Covid days, it was a perfect social distancing event along the rolling hills of the Driftless Region. Incredible works, commissioned for certain spaces to give wonder, joy, and beauty in the landscape, at an incredibly difficult period in our world’s health, our nation’s health and response, and as individuals within our communities.

Back to Karen. What a delight! She sent me pictures of how she displayed my plates among other handmade functional works and stacks of commercially made pieces. All are poetically displayed on a variety of shelves from reclaimed lumber and shelving made by her husband (see below!). This is all so fitting as I always use the reclaimed clay from Lillstreet Art Center, when making the stoneware dinner plates. The “reclaim,” used by many in the art center, including cut offs from throwing on the wheel, abandoned works, clay too hard to use and broken up, and then mixed with powdered clay, water, then pugged, weighed, and bagged to be made available to the maker as “reclaim.”

Our texts flew back and forth, sharing images of our homes, with a shared appreciation for the handmade, the discovered, and the gratitude for the makers in our lives. I came to handmade pots through the discovery of clay as a medium, while making handmade tiles for my home (because I saw how much handmade tiles cost to buy!) I thought, “I can make those!” So I did, at Lillstreet Art Center. Then, creating sculptural works among the potters, my, ahem, appetite grew for handmade pots, including some of my own. The common and constant thread of agrarian themed works throughout my art practice, led seamlessly to plates and bowls and shared meals and art happenings centered on food and so much more (including run on sentences!).

Wonderful images from Karen! My plates among other handmade plates, salt glazed, wheel thrown, and even my postcard of installation/temporary works. What a fun grouping.

For all this and more, I give thanks this Thanksgiving and harvest season. What am I doing this year? Planting trees that will bear fruit for years to come. Planting a garden that will help pollinators (including the leaving the leaves until late spring clean up). Celebrating with my nephew and brother in law, in my back yard (with a purchased food warmer), a relatively full menu for Thanksgiving, and punctuated with chestnuts on an open fire.

We gotta find some joy and poetry in this world at this time. I remember many shared Thanskgivings at this, most challenging time. I took none of it for granted.


Thanksgiving at SchwalbeHaus 2018

Thank you, Karen, for the reminder and the appreciation for my works. You inspired me to pause, give thanks, and share gratitude.


A grouping of my plates and other potters, at my AFS family’s home in Maine. It is so fun to think of people dining on my plates from coast to coast.

(Riffing from a Buddhist prayer for loving kindness) May the world be safe. May the nation be safe. May the reader be safe. May the people around me be safe. May I be safe. May we all figure out what kind of life is worth living, stay physically distant and stay social, and consider the safety and well-being of and for each other, as we move into a difficult winter and a spring awakening.

I cannot help but be hopeful while we are in the thick of it, especially after hearing of positive trials and plans for distributing a vaccine, and knowing that following the Bubonic plague came The Renaissance.

*I am always interested in your comments and observations. Thanks for reading.