Apologies for the brief pause in our conversation. I’ve been feeling completely drained and needed to take some time out. The last few days have been busy but replenishing…time spent in my garden and with my husband walking along the beautiful cliffs of Cinque Terra. Sunshine, crashing waves and winds to blow away the cobwebs of recent weeks – literally!
There was so much in your last letter that I’m not sure how to respond in words so instead I am going to send you a piece I wrote yesterday called ‘Cracked’ which was inspired by a piece of raku pottery I made last week. Actually I made the piece nearly 18 months ago but since there has been no time to return to the woman I made it with and apply the glaze. Last week the moment emerged, unexpectedly, when she became free and so did I. I went along with absolutely no idea what to expect, I didn’t even know we would be doing a raku glaze let along what it would involve. But I was blown away by the process, by what it involved, by the symbolism of it all and by the beauty of the final piece. It struck me that throughout or conversations that have been many, many examples of the tensions and stresses under which we have found ourselves during our lives…from our situations growing up to our relationships with the partners we have chosen (and who have seen our vulnerabilities and chosen us, for the wrong reasons) to the everyday challenges of life to the structural inequalities of race and gender of the societies in which we lives. And yet, somehow, we are able to see the beauty of the world and the goodness of others. These pressures crack us but they do not, cannot, will not break us. If anything they make us more beautiful.
We have no control over the direction of the cracks or their depth. We have no control how the stresses and challenges of our lives react and interact with one another. But somehow what emerges is even more beautiful because it is who we are.
Some people see the cracks and think that they can exploit them. Interpret them as meaning that we are weak, damaged. Others recognise what the cracks represent, what they say about us and our resilience.
So I send these words and these images as a tribute to the both of us, and to the many other women, who survive and are beautiful despite the tension, stress, heat and pressure that life throws at us and them.
You are strong and beautiful and I see you.
Italy, 8th June 2020
PS Just before I sent this email with the photos I realised how very different the outside of my pot is from the inside…
The inside is my favourite part, the cracks are beautiful and the splodges of colour which started off solid (see attached photos) went through the process of being heated to 1000 degrees Celsius and turned into something completely different – their colour, their form, is barely recognisable. The outside meanwhile is deeper in colour, richer, stronger. There are very fewer cracks, at least not that can be seen without looking very carefully. Yet the glaze used in the inside and the outside is exactly the same, the heating process was exactly the same. The only real difference is that I couldn’t get the glaze to cover properly on the outside so it ended up being layered. So the outside of the bowl is like us…the layers that we build up and which turn us into bright, shiny, iridescent people. With a swirl, a flourish, which is what others see. Inside there are cracks, inevitably but they make us even more beautiful on the inside than on the outside….
Wordsmith: Heaven Crawley
Photographer: Heaven Crawley