This is the most anonymous piece I have ever made. I used only the tips of my skills yet it took all of them to gather the simplicity. Like reading a really great book, I didn't want it to end. In looking back, it was like nurturing an inherited garden. With love and attention their secrets emerged.
I collect things from walks and bring them back to my studio for inspiration. In 2005 my husband and I took a trip to his home town, Oslo, Norway to visit his family.
His sister and her family were renting a little cabin on Bjerkoy, a tiny island in the Oslo Ford. You could swim there it was that close to the city, yet there was nothing but cabins and nature once you arrived. No electricity, no food stands. Just peace and quiet. Friends and family.
It was on this island where my husband and I started to realize something was not quite right with his mother Else. It was on one of the many walks where I found the little sticks and the understanding of her dementia began to unfold.
I brought them back to the little cabin we were all staying...me, my husband, Else, his sister, her husband and their two children. Norwegians like to be "coosly" - super cozy. I sat on the stoop adding grass wrappings on an impulse - a homesickness for my studio and work with my hands.
What struck me about these little sticks was how much they evoked the beginnings of utensils left dormant and unfinished. I wrapped them up and brought them home, storing them in a little box in my studio for safekeeping; taking them out now and again to admire like a child with stored treasures under her bed. I always knew I would transform them, I just didn't know when. In 2011 I received an invitation to participate in the exhibition "Do Not Destroy: Trees, Life and Jewish Thought" at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. I knew their time had come.
Now came the part of exactly how to bring them out of their dormancy. Grafting became the thread I followed. I wrote these lines in my sketchbook:
- If plants grew tools, what would they look like?
- If I didnt' come to the world with everything I need, can I graft these things on later and hope they will grow to be mine?
1 + 1 = ONE
The resolution of what to graft came to me soon after. Else had died of Alzheimers that spring. Sitting on my husbands desk was a small bag of silver and silver plated remnants we collected from her kitchen after her Memorial. They were pieces missing their mates, or small, single gifts from friends. The circle came together and I knew how to continue.
The only thing I made from scratch was the root extension on the knife. A cuttlefish casting from silver scraps. But it was the sticks themselves which became the most precious material. They contained the memory of collecting them and a link to a time past. One-of-a-kind carvings from nature. Like staring at a pristine sheet of white paper, I hesitated to begin. I started by gently coaxing and smoothing the wood; augmenting what they already had while making transitions to fit the silver. I then augmented and formed the silver to relate and respond to the wood.
The white and black spoons were volunteers and added themselves without needing permission. The silver plate separating from the nickel was a gift. I chased a small seed into the bowl of the smallest spoon and made it black, giving the piece both an ending and an opportunity for another beginning.
I stitched them a little blanket to keep them safe and all together...
...with the ability to wrap them up and put them away. To take out on occasion to be admired and adored.
What I am left with is the little grass wrappings. Locust shell ghosts on my bench. Keepers of time well spent.
At first you will think of practice as a limited part of your life.
In time you will realize that everything you do is part of your practice.
- Baba Ram Dass