My family recently enjoyed a reunion for a week. We shared a variety of activities and talked from morning until evening. Our five adult children landing within the same city limits is a rare event. They got to reunite with an uncle and three aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews.
One sunny afternoon we explored a few offerings of downtown Portland. My oldest daughter is an artist and since we all love the arts, we visited the choice Museum of Contemporary Craft. We saw an exhibit of bowls in many mediums displayed as part of a project organized by Ayumi Horie in partnership with the museum entitled “Object Focus: The Bowl”. Particularly curious was a table lined with bowls that we could pick up and examine, think about, admire. An option for the visitor was choosing an artist whose bowl was enjoyed, thus being given the privilege of taking a similar bowl home to use by checking it out at the Circulation Desk. This part of the project is called “Object Focus: The Bowl, Engage + Use.”
Yes, that’s correct–we got to utilize the very art that museums typically discourage us from touching. What an adventurous concept! I was all in, especially when the others encouraged me. We all agreed we would at least use a unique and beautifully crafted bowl for an upcoming family BBQ. The daughters started to think of foods the bowl might hold. I finally chose one created by Mike Helke. It is an unusual shape, and the glazes are lovely. I knew it could make something good happen.
We did fill the bowl with a luscious fruit salad for our family reunion meal. But we had a few other ideas and I seized upon one in particular.
It involves a troll. My troll.
She Who Rules Wisely (aka Crone aka Old Troll) was given to me by my mother over thirty years ago, following a Scandinavian trip both parents took. I think of this creature as an ancient and watchful being from first, another dimension, and second, a region that attracts me with its natural grandeur and history. Since her kind has power there and in my house, I afford her respect and a prominent place of repose. Every now and then we talk in secret; she is reassuring yet stern, frank but humorous–much like my mother and her sisters could be. But most of all, dear “SWRW” is a survivor who considers herself queenly when at her best. In fact, in private she confides she borders on goddess-hood. In truth, she is a bit raggedy after a long, nearly legendary life.
There was no question that she would chime in when she saw the bowl. She has opinions and likes the limelight. What follows is a transcription of her responses, aided by pictures she allowed.
“I see. Trying to get this one over me, eh? I happen to have been thinking about boats and beds, either of which this great piece of ceramic might become. Allow me to investigate further. I can’t sleep anyway, with all the racket.”
“Yes, yes. About the right size. Sturdy yet elegant. Best colors I’ve seen in eons. But which to use it for…no, no suggestions needed!”
“‘Oh, sail me across the great Atlantic, take me back to my fiords, dear! Make me a bed in the deep of forest, my true love will await me there!’ What? My voice needs a tune up? Never mind. This suits me well. But would it sink…anyone check that out yet? What are the specs?”
“This looks and feels nothing whatsoever like the ocean…”
“That was extraordinarily taxing to flip over. No, I didn’t need your help. I need to get an exercise regimen going. Now, what to do, what to do? I feel at home in here…A bed, a boat. Shhh…! I’m cogitating. ”
“Brain fatigue. I might need to rest up first. Not as quick as I used to be. Wait….that gives me another thought. Watch this.”
“Not so easy to get comfortable but I’ve known rocks that were worse. The three rectangles are a deft touch but this rounded side sleeps poorly. What did you say the craftsman was building? Right, bowls.”
“Okay, it’s the fabric that is half the problem. Where did you get this? I don’t like it. Cheap.”
“An improvement but somewhat claustrophobic. Reminds me of some fishing boats I’ve sheltered under during my unbelievably long, occasionally nomadic life. I could tell you stories, but another time. If I could, I’d close my other eye and sleep away the rest of the evening. This whole experience is inspiring but, I have to admit, tiring.”
“You know what? I appreciate the generous offer, but you may keep it, Cynthia. It looks good, you like it, but to me it’s a boat that won’t float and a bed that hexes snoozing. My tail is starting to drag now. Let me give you some advice. Next time you want to bring home art, take me with you. I’m available for consulting, for a reasonable fee. Speaking engagements, as you know, are a heftier investment. But they might not be about any arts that you’d appreciate.”
“Hey…okay, here we go again. Storytellers–you all have to have the last word. Wait–keep that profile shot–my best side! I do look pretty good, eh? Yes, I do.”
(Thanks to my family for a good visit and fun times!)
**Please visit the exhibition blog at Object FocusBowl.tumblr.com to enjoy other photos and thoughts about the bowls borrowed and used well. And stop by Portland, Oregon’s excellent Contemporary Museum of Craft.**