My favourite teacup is made of fine bone china. I was offered it as thanks for playing at a church fundraiser many years ago, but not until this year of coVid isolation have I understood what it’s for – I’ve only just learned to drink tea.

This cup in particular demands a certain level of attention to ceremony. It slows me down to listening speed.

My new practice this year is to find the pause, wherever it lands in my day, and take my tea up to the window where my great-grandmother’s chair is. Cup and milk in the little Czech creamer first. Then the teapot.

I sit with a lap quilt in Gran’s lovely chair, beside the plants, the backyard trees and I just notice. Little changes, little samenesses, the wind, the squirrels, the soft questions that tug at my sleeve like a shy child.

In this photo it’s my coffee mug. But that’s Gran’s chair, and the window.

Sometimes I think about Gran, who I barely knew, but who my mother loved I believe. My sense from stories is that she was quiet, strong in an unobtrusive Edwardian way, married to a successful hoisery factory manager from Pennsylvania. Family and family history were central to her worldview; she kept things steady and grounded through all crises. When I sit in her chair I can feel all of this; I imagine I know her.

Sometimes I think about The Queen of England, whose name endorses the bottom of my cup and saucer. She reminds me of the lady I imagine Gran to be.

I’ve discovered that when having tea it’s not a good idea to attempt other things. I did so this evening, thinking it would be nice to have some early grey while working on this series of the old Czech set (ellipse practice and fun to work with mixed media on printmaking paper).

But there is no ceremony. The listening I do while I draw is not the same as the listening I do in a tea ‘pause’. Both are moments that become stretched and lightened, but differently so. Drawing requires hyper focus and is intensely relational. There’s a kind of electric intimacy between me and the curve my hand describes.

A proper tea holds space for something I don’t yet know – a space that would encourage shy children to approach with their quiet, interesting observations.

The length of my tea is measured by the volume of the pot, but also the breadth and depth of my listening. It ends when what I’ve poured no longer lifts its warmth upward in steam, since soft ideas cannot abide cold tea.

The ideas that came today were in and around my fascination with making marks on a page or a canvas. Three thousand choices in every hour: the strength and character of a line or a shadow, the richness of colour and symbol, reference where and to what – not just in my work, but in all things drawn and described by people, wherever we do it.

Walls, paper, canvas, school desks, trains, washroom stalls, the caves at Lascaux. Humans describe what it is to be human in the world of change and challenge and beauty.

Art is impractical, unmeasurable, difficult and astonishing, is made only by humans in and of and for this place we share. I love that we do this. I love that we make ceremony of tea too. Art and tea in response to adversity.

I stood grinning on a hill in the spring wind without the protection of my long winter coat and smelled the turning of the planet towards the sun.

Geese-are-back

This Titanic winter season has run amok of the inevitable.  As did the Titans when banished to the underworld and the unsinkable ship when torn by an iceberg, even the strongest behemoth must surrender, eventually, to change.  I can feel the chill through my window, yes.  But it can no longer reach my bones, which glow golden.

Everything is white again.
One of the blizzards from 2013-14.  I lost count.

In requiem to the five white months that are now passing I need to acknowledge my grief too, because I will miss it. This winter has tumbled and shaped me like a river-rock, exposed me like a quartz that had been encased in calloused grey stone – in the safe invisible of frozen white.  It was as though all internal weather was played outside these windows – serenity, calm, beauty so sharp it hurt, but also rage, fury, sorrow, wilfulness.  I’m different.  A lot different.

falls2_October2013

I’ve just agreed to make twenty pieces of art, write, record and rehearse twenty minutes of music and  – what the hell – twenty+ pages of a hand-made, limited edition book that will explore the idea of exposure and vulnerability, or “The Public Intimate”.  It’s a true child of the winter that’s passing, this show.  I’ve become deeply intrigued by what we do as humans and artists when we look at ourselves and make portraits, then publish them.  Selfies – Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Munsch, Cohen, Joni, Camus, Anne Michaels…  If all art is in some way autobiographical, then in fact, making and publishing ‘selfies’ are the job of artists.  We hear a song, read a book, see a great self-portrait, and we are moved to tears.  They are soul food.  But self-publishing is also the work of every human, right?  Even the duck-faced self-portraits published on facebook that are so vulnerable, awkward and exposed are expression of our human need …  to be visible?  Still working this out, as you can see.

My answers, for whatever they’re worth, will be published in a gallery in 13 weeks.  You can bet you’ll be hearing more about it.