I was in my kitchen rummaging for a coffee cup when I suddenly felt a yearning for one particular cup.
It was earth brown, with a a rough surface, and no ear.
Karl had been using it last time he was here. It was his.
It was somehow emitting a frequency to me in the dish-filled sink, “I am alive.”
The indigo blue lacquered IKEA cup I usually drink from felt sterile to me and I searched the sink for the this one. I found it, washed it,
dried it, and turned it upside down.
“Diane Schapira,” was etched into the bottom. But of course– it was Diane’s.
I held it and poured my coffee into it. It was faintly grounding. I always need to ground my energy.
Most of Karl’s friends are artists, but Joel and Diane are a rare pair of artists who believe all people, potentially, are artists, and they even made me into one, the day we visited. When Karl told me this, that these friends of his had invited us to just “play” in their art studio, filled with art materials, I looked at him, puzzled.
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Joel says there is only one rule in the studio: You have to make something,” Karl explained with a big smile.
I’d been wanting to, actually, for years, maybe decades. But something was holding down my hands. Just as my whole soul had been held down, for most of my life. By an inexplicable “something.”
We got to their house in Connecticut–a warm, large house on a beautiful peak, bursting with art that was made by real people.
I knew I was in a safe place. You could talk. You could breathe. You could make art. Just like that. Long married, very happily, with grown children, Joel and Diane also teach art, and they send out this very concept when they teach: That art is creating, period. Just make something. You won’t know what it is before you start but as you begin to make it it will come to you.
I couldn’t believe it my ears. Or eyes.
Was I finally to be liberated from this pained marriage I’ve been in for 27 years with “writing” which mostly involves not writing, because I’m too afraid of the effect of what I might produce. That is really my fear of writing: What if I am insane? I feel I need voluminous evidence to say something, anything, because there is a man in the sky, an editor, and this editor doesn’t like mess–female interpretations. He represents team “normal.” He is remote, important, hands on the Big Wheel. In “journalism” you write to please that man. And he thinks you’re nuts.
Now, instead, I was invited now to make something with my hands, and dis-connect my brain?
It sounded too good to be true. But it was true.
It was a day unlike any other. Like going back to childhood and getting a second chance to be a child, which I never was.
Joel–a warm, open, happy man– led us down the staircase into the art studio, a vast room filled with stuff–a huge converted pool table in the center, freighted with materials: Discarded cardboard pieces in all shapes and sizes, paints, brushes, buttons, feathers, old photographs, bits of plastic, broken straws from the 1970s, word stamps–and in a second sunken room, a table of melted colored waxes and brushes, and vast canvasses at different stages of “finished.” Part of the magic was that people contributed to one another’s works in progress. They had subverted the following notions of the art world: 1. That some people are “artists” others not. 2: That art is made by one person, not collaborated on. 3. That the whole thing should be wracked with fear and competition.
So we started making art. I wafted around, taking bits of cardboard, dripping wax on them, fastening words, pins, plastic mesh bits–and at one point Joel saw something I had made and said: “I want that.” Honored, I gave it to him and he attached it to a larger piece he was making. Diane, looked at a piece I was working on and noticed a line–a broken line of red and black drawn in pen, framing a piece. “I like that,” she said. “I really like that.”
I lost my shame, for being human, in that moment.
Before we left, Diane, who specializes in pottery, took me into her ceramic studio, and showed me her own private, enchanted world. Ovens and stacks of ceramic objects both glazed and unglazed, masks, imprints of faces, and all kinds of things I can’t find words for. I would have liked to stay there forever. In her presence, I was not being told I did not know something. Diane has a radiant artistry about her.
We talked about materials, feelings associated with them. And then I confessed to her about the glitter. That I collect glitter, and play with it, and seek ways to use it, that might be acceptable. She lit up, and said she loves glitter too. And we agreed that glitter has gotten a bad rap, as a medium reserved for kindergarten. And we agreed to have a special glitter day–I would bring all my glitter and we would go into an unapologetic reverie. If we could overcome our fear and shame about glitter, in general. In that house, I knew we would.
It was Diane’s warmth that was imprinted in the cup I searched for that morning, not “knowing” it was Diane’s until I located it.
It feels so good in your hand, this cup.
It’s odd size, it’s rough exterior–it steps outside of mass produced, cold objects and says: “You will remember me.”
I told Karl about the cup calling to me in the sink. “I thought to write a short piece about it,” I said.
“You have to,” Karl said.
Every time I write I face a firing squad. Its soldiers demand to know what makes me think my subject matter is of interest to readers.
I never know what I am writing about, or why, but so what?
Maybe it’s just a letter to Joel and Diane, a way to say “thank you.”
I hold the cup and I dare create something, today.