3 months of lockdown on Skye and I feel that my creativity has been lying fallow for most of that time. Despite the release from commitments and deadlines, my initial hopes of a period of fertile playing in the studio have gathered dust. To continue making with the same pre-Covid19 attitudes just didn’t work for me. My attention was continually on the news or taking a break from the news by gardening, empty minded. The fine weather we have had this year has, I think, made the experience more bearable, helping us to cope and adapt with soothing moments of beauty. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged situation having the croft to walk through.
There has been such immense change in all of our lives and processing it on every level takes a lot of energy. I can almost feel the wheels and cogs of my psyche turning. The sense of the whole world slowing down has been profound. Even here there is a great sense of relief from the cessation of what we had learned to call normal life. I’m sure the same is true for many areas which rely on tourism. We don’t have to imagine Venice without the crowds, London without the air pollution or the Fairy Pools without traffic stuck in the ditch, we’ve seen it for a precious moment.
Throughout the lockdown we have been able to continue with building the new studio – a half finished build is no benefit to anyone. The joiner and plumber were able to come in and work alone and slowly it is nearing completion. We wait for water and power to be connected. Whether it is an investment wisely spent considering the uncertain future, we’ll find out. What I am certain of is the beauty of the space and I hope I can share that sense by doing what I do best, and continuing to make pots.
The government’s assistance to some small businesses like mine meant that I could invest in a new kiln. Instead of just replacing the 45cm wide electric kiln which I’ve been using for bisque for the last 20 years I was able to order a bigger, better gas fired kiln which will, hopefully, see me to the end of my career. The last wood firing a couple of weeks ago was exhausting and made me face the reality of another 10 years of solo wood firing! Not an easy prospect and I’m not ready to give up on that yet. I plan to do fewer wood firings each year, hopefully with help, and fill that kiln with pots specifically needing wood fire effects. The gas kiln gives me scope for developing the work with glazes and in saggars. There were various limiting parameters which actually made the ordering fairly straight forward. I spoke to Adrian at the wonderful Northern Kilns who talked me through all the considerations. The hardest decision was what colour to paint it. Many phone calls and emails later and with impeccable timing, the best liveried van in the North rolled up on Skye just as lockdown was lifting. The beating heart of the studio is now a hot, red tomato.
The Black Lives Matter protests have stymied me, everything I think I want to say sounds irrelevant to my own ears.
I’ve had a life which I am blessed to be able to call normal. At the same time others have found prejudice, unbearable burdens and disadvantage; moments I have experienced as precious and refreshing, for others have been intolerable, desperate, for some fatal.
For me this has also been a time to listen and learn.