“Are you done with the move yet?” I hear this question a lot lately. The answer is yes, and no. We are mostly living in our new place at Arboretum Cohousing (“Arbco”), and participating actively in the vibrant community. We are slowly doing additional repairs, decorating, organizing and settling in, a process which may never be “done.”
We are also still sorting through stuff at our old house, a lot of which involves my ceramics. When I set up my studio in 2009, Sam had moved to Arbco, vacating his basement bedroom seemingly for good. Bacia Edelman, a well-known ceramic artist, neighbor, and member of our congregation had just died. I’d had the opportunity to visit her home studio while she was well, and was moved to hear how she worked with clay till the very end of her days. Always a slow and quiet worker when it comes to art, I loved having my own space to take as long as I wanted and not have to be social with others while I did it.
When I got cancer in 2015, I didn’t have much energy for the extra flight of stairs and physical demands of ceramics. I poured my creative urges into jigsaw puzzles and blogging instead. Returning to clay after my treatment, I made pieces having to do with surrender, changing body image, and one inspired by my unexpected post-cancer trip to Israel-Palestine.
When COVID-19 hit, I packed up my studio to make it into a bedroom again so that Sam and Sarah could move back in, along with our godsend of a godson Michael, who came to help with the cooking and personal care. By that time I was two years into my novel-writing, which fed my spirit. I also returned to an early love, fiber arts, doing loom knitting with Sarah to keep her occupied during the lockdown. Spinning, knitting, and crocheting (and cooking, baking, and cleaning) filled my need for physical creativity.
I reclaimed my ceramics studio after the vaccines, and finally made it back to Bethel Horizons for clay camp in 2022, something I’d been fantasizing about throughout 2020 and 2021. I knew we might move to Arbco when a space became available, though, so I shifted towards completing pieces rather than making new work.
The fate of my studio is still TBD. Leave it in place and keep using it while we rent the house to friends? Move it to the home of another friend and neighbor who suggested we share it? Maybe move it to Arbco someday if enough other people are interested? Sell all the equipment and go back to working in others studios? Or perhaps I am ready to completely let go of making in clay. There are some wonderful fiber artists at Arbco and I’m enjoying connecting with them already.
In any case I need to downsize the amount of finished ceramic work I’m storing. It’s nowhere near as portable as knitting or writing! I’d been planning to do some open-house ceramics / moving sales before the winter holidays. I came down with the flu in October, and between that and the horrible war between Israel and Hamas, I wasn’t sure I’d have the physical or emotional energy to pull it off. I’d been planning to donate the proceeds to some organization or cause, and when it finally occurred to me to make it a benefit for peace and humanitarian aid in the Middle East, I found the energy to do it.
I’ve been enjoying setting up the show. It’s kind of a retrospective on my ceramics career, or at least 16 or 17 years of it. While my dedication to ceramics may not turn out to be lifelong as it was for Bacia, it feels good to honor it.
It also feels good to be doing a benefit, however small, to help ameliorate the horrors going on in Israel-Palestine. Standing Together is an amazing grassroots organizing group led by Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel. I’ve met two of their leaders and find them brilliant and caring, and their messages are hopeful without whitewashing anything. I heard about Anera because my father, who died this May, did a fundraiser for them a few years ago. They provide medical and humanitarian aid to refugees and others hurt by conflict in the Palestine, Lebanon, and Jordan, with a fund specifically for Gaza.
If you’re in Madison, please stop by 2116 Jefferson St. Nov. 19, Nov. 24 or Nov. 26. My friend and fellow writer Christa Bruhn is scheduled to come read from her memoir Crossing Borders: The Search for Dignity in Palestine each afternoon, with time for discussion of our hopes for peace. Snacks will be provided by Christa’s daughter Sham Abufarha. See details at the Facebook event here. If the dates don’t work for you, or you’re far away and would like a virtual tour of the show, let me know and we can arrange something.