Tag Archives: self-sufficiency

Clay & Self-Sufficiency

I  was at a garden centre yesterday, one that I particularly enjoy: Brian Minter‘s Country Garden. You can find ordinary and rare or unusual plants there. I saw saffron crocuses being grown for the first time… He also sells about 15-20 different kinds of seed potatoes. I finally decided on Norland, an early red. I trust his quality and selection and have listened to his shows and read his articles for years. I have his videos and really rely on them. In addition, he has a beautiful botanical garden, Minter Gardens, which rivals Butchart Gardens. Brian Minter is always willing to answer any question you might have and he is very approachable. Yesterday, I noticed that he’s getting ‘up there’ but he still has loads of get up and go. The centre also has beautiful gift items and curiosities. My friend Minoo and I slowly worked our way through the aisles and displays, clucking over this and that. As I was weaving my way around, I was, once again, struck by the fact that there were quite a few things on display that I could make. Knowing this affords me a sense of self-sufficiency. Yet, it’s one thing to know how and another to act on it. If I am truly interested, I’d better jot down some notes and make a few sketches before I forget. The fact remains: clay folk can make just about anything they want. Growing up with brothers and a father who were handy helped me immensely. That atmosphere informed me and I became conversant with electric and hand tools. By my teenage years, I was very comfortable making things on my Dad’s workbench. My mother’s father was also very handy and I spent enough time around him to bolster all these parts of myself. And my mother taught me everything I needed to know about cooking and sewing. It feels good to be able to do these things, but I am not talking about pride. I don’t like the word ‘pride’ or ‘deserve’ and I steer clear of them and what they represent. I don’t mind ‘gratified,’ though. Yesterday, it felt good recognizing that I could make some of the things I saw as we roved around Minter’s garden centre. I am eons away from ceramic mastery, but I’ve reached a point where I’m confident in ability. Technically, I can put something together according to plan. And ideas come to me. I have also worked in clay for so long now that I am so comfortable with the stuff it almost feels like an extension of myself. I identify with it. I’m happy to be where I’m at and happy to be doing what I’m doing. It feels good to become inspired and to know things are within reach if I want to travel a certain path. I’ve lived many places and moved many times, originally as a result of my father’s career and, later, out of habit and because of schooling. During those periods of my life, I was more interested in working with sculpture and abstraction. Now that I’ve ‘settled down,’ I am seeing myself making functional things I’d have never dreamt of making in the past and it’s sort of ironic. I recognize that my values, priorities, and tastes have changed or shifted. Some not all that much, but my needs certainly have. I ordered a greenhouse yesterday, my mother’s Christmas gift to us. As I was ordering it, I thought, gee, I could make some nice ceramic finials to run across the top of it after it’s up. Yes, I’m enjoying a sense of place and an inherited can-do mentality.

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We must believe in and protect our artistic vision

Our artistic vision is our guiding light. It illuminates the terrain around us and our inner life. We must come to trust ourselves and our artistic vision. At the same time, it is best to surround ourselves with people who believe in us or who support us or who remain neutral. This last part is especially important and has to do with ourselves, too, not just others.

Neutrality

If I do not understand another’s artistic vision or if I am aware of or come to recognize that I question it, I immediately place myself in a willed state of neutrality. I do not want to affect the other person with feelings of ambivalence or anything negative, so I will remain neutral. Sometimes this state isn’t easy to achieve, but I do it by repeating a very simple but extremely powerful mantra that I learned from a person beloved to me, Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, otherwise known as Gurudeva. He was not/is not my guru. I have no guru. But I learned much from him and one of the things I learned is this deceivingly simple mantra, the effect of which places anyone who says it in a super-conscious state instantly. The mantra is “Who am I ? Not this body.” When said, it is a means of zapping me out of any form of judgment and putting me on a different plane, one without judgment. It is an easy way to become neutral fast.

Toxic People

Likewise, we must protect ourselves from others who are judgmental or negative and who do not maintain neutrality around us. This is especially important when we have an idea for a new project. If we, without thinking, start chattering about our idea before it is distilled and part of our being, we affect it negatively and might even quash it. The idea quite literally changes, evaporates, or is something that is no longer married to us. However, if we keep the idea to ourselves and let it gestate, the time will come when it is ready to see the light of day. This is not ‘keeping secrets.’ Keeping our idea to ourselves until it and we are ready is a way of protecting ourselves and our artistic vision. At this point, we can speak or write about it to others. Still, it is best to be selective about who we tell. If we tell someone who maintains neutrality, we won’t be affected. If we tell someone who is supportive, our idea is graced, we feel warm and affirmed. However, if we are criticized or if we receive a message that is indirectly negative, clothed in supportive words and non-verbal behavior, we must be guided by our intuition and immediately stop talking to this person about our intended project. In fact, after we do, it’s not a bad idea to take back any power we may have inadvertently given that person, too, by simply stating that we are doing it and visualizing pulling power from the other back into ourselves. For me, I would pull it back to my solar plexus chakra, the chakra of personal power. Likewise, if we do find ourselves in the midst of another who is acting negative or judgmental about our artistic vision, don’t judge them; remain neutral. It can be done with practice. And do not take what the other person is saying personally. It isn’t about you; it’s about them and you do not need to invite that kind of garbage into yourself. View it impersonally and remain neutral. So, our ideas must be incubated around people who believe in us and we must believe in ourselves. Our belief in ourselves is more important, though, and we must culture an internal locus of control. If we constantly look to others for approval, we are operating from an external locus of control and this does not help our artistic vision.

Good Support System

A good support system is invaluable. My first thought is of my beloved friend, Russ, who died in the mid-1990s. He believed in me very strongly and he knew me very well. We attended the same college and had several things in common: photography, journalism, art, poetry. We co-edited a fine literary magazine, worked for the student newspaper and in professional theatre as light-sound technicians and stage hands. At the time, he was coming to terms with his homosexuality in a world that was unkind. We were fast friends and I will never ever forget his unswerving support. Russ quite literally felt that I could do anything. This belief in another was an amazing thing to behold. He also had a strong sense of his own artistic vision, was an excellent photographer and a very a gifted poet. He was able to be as supportive as he was because he was not ego-involved. He was not jealous, nor did he feel competitive, two qualities that spell a lack of support mixed with toxicity. We must recognize readily and stay away from this toxic mix. And culture being around supportive people. Such people are not sycophants. They are people who can constructively criticize as well as support. They are authentic, not phony. Make firm boundaries for yourself. As Fritz Perls said, “I am not in this world to live up to other people’s expectations.”

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Building with Clay: In Consideration of Tiny Cob Homes

It amazes me that cob homes fare as well as they do in coastal climes but they do and have done for centuries in the British Isles. Made of clay and other natural materials, they are unique in that almost any shape can be made, given a sound design and well-structured supports. I began thinking of cob homes while driving through Coquitlam the other day. You see, I was astounded to see so many monster homes still being built. Face it, no matter how green your materials are, all positives are outweighed by mass and amount of energy needed to heat them.

I prefer small. Consider the homes of our ancestors; they did just fine and, what’s more, their homes had charm.  Today, while reading Rural Delivery, a no-nonsense farming  periodical from Nova Scotia, I came across a sidebar that interested me. The magazine defines permaculture ethics as “care for the earth, care for people, share the surplus, limit population, and reduce consumption.” Today’s blog isn’t an harangue against the evils of conspicuous consumption, though. Today’s post is a song…an enticing melody sung in honor of the tiny home. I live in a tiny home, all 670 sq. ft. of it, and I’m here to tell you that it can be done! Our home is a tiny jewel, graced with glowing maple floors, leaded glass, portholes, skylights and a gas fireplace. As E. F. Schumacher said, “Small is beautiful.” Here is a cob home that has postage stamp size footprint:

And a Slide show of it being built in Banat, Romania, plus nine more like it: ‘Natural’ Tiny House Top 10. In addition, here is a recipe for the slurry needed to build such a home. “Finishing the exterior with a more waterproof material improves the longevity of the cob house,” states Keith Allen in his article for eHow. He also cites The History of Cob, by Michael Smith. Lest we think it can’t be done ‘here,’ take a look at this sweetheart in Stanley Park in Vancouver. Smack dab in the middle of a temperate rain forest…

The following video shows footage of interns working on a cob home in North Carolina. The spokeswoman states that the clay used to build it was found within 50′ of the home. Of its natural ‘air conditioning’: 10 degrees cooler inside. If you don’t want to build your own, these people will do it for you; however, you can do-it-yourself for about $3,000 (2009, US dollars), as this young man did in Missouri. Chicken feed. But what would you  do with the 30 coats you currently have in your closet, you ask? Simple. You wouldn’t have that many! Eat your heart out, Antoni Gaudi!


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