Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Begging Bowl

The begging bowl is used by Buddhist monks to go out into the world and receive alms or food donations. They take their empty bowl out into the world and are grateful for whatever they receive, they have no expectations, they eat what is given until they are nourished and then the bowl is put away. It is also a symbolic teaching of non attachment.
I love the idea of getting up each day with an empty bowl and carrying it with me throughout my day and accepting with gratitude whatever I receive from those I meet and from the day itself. Imagine being grateful for whatever is placed in your bowl and being nourished by it.
I have had bowls on my mind for sometime now. When I make the effort, I make a very nice bowl, I have had some very good bowl making teachers. For me, a bowl is one of the most important objects I have in my house. They are everywhere and they hold everything. I am always reaching for a bowl to put something in. I also think, metaphorically, it has great significance for all of us. An empty bowl, a bowl full of nourishing food, a bowl handed down from a grandmother, a bowl made by a friend. It's an important object. The bowl in this photo is a slab bowl I made several years ago and raku fired. It has held shells from Maine, Hershey's dark chocolate kisses, raku beads, all sorts of treasures. Last year it held the wool Anna Branner sent me and sat in my studio nudging me to try weaving. And now look where that led me!
My hesitation with functional pottery is the decoration. I can make a great bowl, I can't find a surface decoration to suit me to save my life with my limitations of a gas kiln that I don't trust to go more than to ^6. And what clay to use..... I love using white clay in my studio, but for a bowl, dark clay rocks my world. Also functional glazes for ^6 that I like seem to enjoy a dark clay body. I have a couple of ^6 glazes that I like a lot, they are pretty reliable, also very plain. My thinking is that when the weather gets more agreeable to be out in my studio, I may do some bowl tests.
My other hesitation with this bowl plan is that there are a hundred million potters in NC and they all make nice bowls. What will I do with these bowls? Do I really want to put myself into the fray? I don't think I want to highly decorate and draw and decal and all that. I want a simple form, a good form, and a pretty glaze. But that, my people, is not going to set me apart and get me noticed. But do I really care about that. I got noticed, it did nothing for me. So maybe these bowls will be just for me, an exercise. Maybe I should approach this as a learning experience and not worry about the selling part. But I really would like to be able to make a living at a craft. It's all so irksome, this selling (as I keep repeating!)
 Here is a plan that is roaming around in my head:
For the cold months of January and February I plan to catch up with much neglected friends, my calendar for January is almost full already. I am going to stay inside and get to know my loom. I have lots of yarns and a gift card from my pal Laura for even more yarn, thanks, Laura!  I have an idea to make little cloths to go with my bowls. I got this cloth in the photo and I carry it around everywhere for my mug or my bowl of soup or my teapot. It's like a miniature placemat and I like the way it completes the bowl or the mug while it is sitting on a table.
When March gets here, we will have some warm days and I can get my wheel out and re introduce  myself. I have an idea to make 100 bowls. I have no plan for what to do with them. That can come later. If I make them, they will find a place, I'm sure. I have not made 100 of anything at one time, ever. My attention span will last to only 12, then I can't stay on task. (I know... you production potters are laughing at this, but I have been distracted, ok?) So this will be a good discipline for me, and I have the head space for it right now. I am not distracted with too many ideas for new barns with found objects. I have "no mind" as the saying goes. For some reason, I feel like I need to get this out of my system before I can move forward. No idea why, but it's there, and I know how I am. Once a spark is there I have to deal with it or I can't get on with things.
I still have no idea how I want to sell my work this coming year. I have tried many venues, some have worked, some have not, some I have enjoyed, some I have hated. I do know what I don't want to be doing again and that's spending a lot of money on show fees. It's like putting stacks of money in my kiln and firing away.
Now that I have said it, I can move forward and do it. And, the best part is that YOU, my blogger friends will be there supporting my efforts and giving advise and consolation and support as always.
So thanks for that, thanks for reading for the past 1560 posts and stick around, I can use your objectivity!!


barbaradonovan said...

So maybe the bowls with the cloths will be what sets you apart from the gazillion NC potters. Will be interesting to see where it all goes.

Dennis Allen said...

I'm thinking of getting a vending machine to set up downtown by the train tracks. You put in a $20 and out pops a handmade bowl.If that doesn't do it, I will try out by the lake but fill each bowl with bait. That's sure to work.

Vicki said...

Love the philosophy of the Begging Bowl.
Bowls are so symbolic. I always thought of the "bowl" I have within which carried, nurtured and protected my son as he grew inside me.

Feed the spark. When the fire burns brightly within, its best to stoke it and let the creativity flow.
Follow your heart and your instincts. You'll be happier for it, I'm sure.

I love the sound of a bowl with its beautifully woven, complementary rustic bowl-cloth. It can be both formal or informal - from table to lap!
Sounds comforting. And both will only get better with age.
Perhaps they can be sold with the idea that people can build on the Tracey Broome Spun Bowl & Cloth Collection until they have a dinner setting? Or, a spun set would make a beautiful single gift for some.

The bowl and cloth could be almost like a simple ritual where both are prepared, laid out with care and appreciated for their beauty and yet functionality.

I too am very partial to dark clay and hope to turn some bowls - tentatively at first, till I get better - from it. Sadly, we don't have the wonderful range of warm speckled and dark clays that you do in the US.

I'm sure whatever you do create Tracey, it will be quality, beautiful and, as always, have soul.
A bowl of soul :)

Laura Farrow said...

2013 is feeling like the year of experimentation and embracing the unknown... could be exciting, no? You are on to something unique combining fiber and clay... let it take you somewhere. xo

Shannon said...

I,too, worship bowls. I have a growing collection. I may have to devote an entire cabinet to them. I concur with all the supportive comments. Let the ideas gestate low in your pelvic bowl, in the land of your second chakra and let it grow where it may.

Lori Buff said...

Make the bowls and let them nourish you.

Michèle Hastings said...

To truly be happy you have to make what you love and what your heart is telling you to make. Getting noticed is secondary.
Getting noticed also means being committed to submitting entries to exhibitions and paying the fees. Ugh. Perhaps I prefer being noticed by my own small group of fans.

If you want to make bowls, you should make bowls.

Gail said...

Tracey...I came upon some videos on YouTube that I think that you may enjoy. They feature Chris Staley, current Penn State Laureate, who is also a potter. Some of the titles....."Liking Mistakes"....."A Search for Meaning"....."Art & Life: Where They Intersect"
He has some lovely messages.

Unknown said...

I love rake... it may me my time to go back too... would love to try it NAKED... the pots.... not me.... :(

Unknown said...


Unknown said...

damn... I posted on the wrong one... I am going to bed...

Avalanche Looms / Susan Johnson said...

Tracey, I gave up doing shows in 1981, the first year I set up my loom. It was one show, close to home, and I sold well, but it didn't make sense to me. Having a retail store with my weaving workshop has been the best, now adding in a little ETSy. I love the customers, usually one at a time, and some days, none at all. People give me energy, and I love the conversations. The retail is small, some yarns, books, toys and my weaves. I just love it, though I'd probably make more $ working at the mall. Your bowl and cloth idea is brilliant. I love the combination of ceramic and cloth.