A Musing on Art and Life - The Chuffed Store A Musing on Art and Life - The Chuffed Store

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A musing on art, life and not knowing what the future holds.

My mother has always been an artist. My childhood home was filled with her creations: psychedelic, fluorescent oil paintings; lounging nudes in pastel; and swirly birds, plucked from her imagination, born from free-handed doodling. Distinctively hers.

Although her art was some of the boldest and brightest to be found in Lincolnshire (a county which tends to favour muted florals and pet portraits), she once told me that she loathed working in colour. An acid trip in her twenties had left her in perpetual doubt, she said.

While colour left her feeling out of control, three-dimensional forms gave her shelter. In the years leading up to my parents’ divorce she packed up her paintbrushes and started sculpting. Alabaster and soapstone; soft stones that bruised easily. She filed away at the edges and the chalk would come away in her fingers, dust coating her skin and resting in her hair. Then she would use increasingly fine files (“rifflers” she calls them) to wear down the hard edges. Then the smoothest sandpaper until it was time for the polish, which sank into the surface and brought out an ethereal shine to the stone. And after that the lumps of rock became sculptures. Small, reclining abstract figures, reminiscent of a Henry Moore, but pink and soft. Figures huddling, arms holding legs, and imperfect hearts with translucent edges. Always, they were made to be touched. 

Recently she has taken up pottery. Strange, non-functional, alien pots with tendrils curling upwards. Chunky pieces of crockery for big hands and clumsy gestures, as well as hundreds of tiny thumb pots that fill the nooks and crannies of her cupboards, made from leftover scraps of clay, perfect for glazing tests. Her glazing experiments have led her most recently to “mocha diffusion”. She says it over and over again with a gleeful smile at the corners of her mouth, emphasising the ‘k’ of ‘mocha’ and the ‘ooo’ of ‘diffusion’. She is light on technical detail and heavy on positive descriptors. 

After hearing about her foray into chemical experiments, my brother sent her a dense tome, detailing the science of pottery glazing. My mother keeps this book on a shelf, smiling when she remembers who gave it to her, but admitting that it’s not really her “thing”. She is probably the most unscientific person I know. She measures food quantities, things like rice, by her cupped hand. One of her favourite sayings is: “we’ll see which way the mop flops” which means, we’ll see what happens. We can’t possibly know the future, so we’ll deal with it when it arrives. It’s a way of life that infuriates people who like to plan, like my sister. 

My mother’s approach to ceramics follows this way of life. The randomness of the outcome is very much part of the process. When it doesn’t work the way it was supposed to, it has still worked. Something has still been created, something worthwhile and beautiful. Perhaps it is different to what was supposed to be, but it is beautiful nonetheless.