Documentation of the Bowl Process
15 April 2005
I have been struggling with the idea of the bowl, the link between the bowl and the creative process and the long term location of this procedure in everything. I have a simple philosophy though – that things will fall into place when they are ready to – although this has frustrated Katty no end – sorry. I think also that battling to come to grips with the idea is also a sign of the greater scheme of things which allows little time for what I like to call soul work – simply being happy to play with creative stuff and allowing it to develop a life of its own . There is far too little time for this – that is also perhaps why I have been over intellectualising the whole thing – trying to keep control of the process.
O.K. – I have been jotting down some thoughts for a few days – and Katty you have all the other agonising stuff – not sure what relevance if any it is. The first time the symbolism of the bowl struck me was a couple of days ago in Durban in art gallery – there was this charcoal of an African pot (bowl – you know the lovely rich full round ones) and part of the same painting was a charcoal nude. I was admiring this piece when the gallery owner came to chat about the piece and I said – from somewhere – what an amazing combination- the bowl being the vessel of life – as is the woman – then I thought – oh you slow child – that’s the whole point !! I think maybe I haven’t grasped it because of the word “bowl” – its not round enough and is too shallow to have the correct connotations for me. Anyway – now at least my brain had clicked into the right place. Also none of the previous ideas had really gelled with me. So my brain got into a different thinking mode. top
I still had a problem – do I use the very beautiful Zulu bowls that I had just used – do I find some from the kitchen – am I happy to break them – that’s been the other thing that has worried me – anyway as I walked into the kitchen yesterday I became aware of the shape of the humble gem squash. It was perfect. So I cut it in half to cook it – the similarities became even more startling – the seeds contained in a protective layer – the holder of future life – the food and the seed all contained within the outer shell – the bowl. The gem then got steamed – and actually from the moment of identifying the gem as the bowl the ritual started – the cooking was important – it is part of every day’s nutrition – as women we nourish internally and externally – we are the gem and we eat the gem so we can gain nourishment and have more to give. top
The nutrition component of this was quite important to me as I was struck by the variety of ways in which a woman nourishes others – physically and emotionally and like the shell of the gem once it has fed us – we are often hollowed out – emptied and then unable to give more because we have not regenerated ourselves – that is where the creative process is so important – it is not in the eating of physical nutrition but in the food for the soul that we are regenerated. That really struck me and I thought how much one allows people to take and take and doesn’t fill oneself up – this notion struck me again later when I was choosing what the gems were to rest on – a quilt top that has not been finished – because I haven’t the emotional creative energy to put into it ! That’s a big detour – sorry. So once the gem was cooked the seeds went into another bowl and the flesh into another and the gems became bowls. I ate the flesh and the seeds went on to nourish – in the dog bowl – (This all started getting so freaky – because clearly we use bowls all the time and most things are part of a cycle – they continue to nourish/sustain long after we would normally think them to). I suppose what struck me at this stage was that everything is linked into a bigger picture and all is cyclical – there isn’t a clear cut beginning or end – we all fit into an ongoing and constantly regenerating process. Problem again is that if we don’t regenerate ourselves that cycle can become destructive – emotionally and at the level of the psyche- not at the physical level. top
Now I had to put stuff into my bowls – The first thing that went into my bowls were two beautiful flowers – they always give me joy and I don’t have to do anything to enjoy them – they are always there for me and I can always enjoy them. The next was fabric, a pencil, some paper and I wanted some sky – because whenever I need energy I breath in the sky and it somehow restores me. I couldn’t find any piece of sky willing to jump into my gem bowl so I got some shells – the sea being so close to the sky. I also wanted a crystal – the energy from a crystal is always so good – so I chose a plain quartz – although I am not sure why I chose a crystal at all apart from the fact that I like them. top
I just want to go back on the others – the bits of fabric were all off cuts - remnants and leftovers from other quilts that I had made – I keep these as they are always useful somewhere in another piece – perhaps again this symbolised that there isn’t really any waste – everything keeps giving – even if it changes its ability or shape and form from the original and is not made into what one originally intended – it still keeps giving. The paper and pencil ? Well I think because I would like to write creatively and perhaps because my activities with paper and pencil keep me so busy and consequently away from writing ? Don’t know – but they were there. Also to fit the paper into the bowl I had to tear it up into tiny pieces – that was so hectic – It was like – my life is so full that to fit more in it has to become so bitty that it looses its real (creative ?) value – in this case the paper – in pieces – can’t be written on anymore – was another rather hectic moment. top
Right – so those were the things inside. Now I wanted to include something beautiful that I had made – I chose an unfinished ( for several years – I think it has been waiting for this job actually) quilt top. When I made it the idea was that it was a riot of earth and elements – and that this was all linked from some ‘source’ to somewhere – perhaps this was what was wrong with the piece – while the grounding element was strong – the mother earth energy had no place to go – it just ends in the piece – and so I think this is why it has remained unfinished. So I placed my bowls on the piece and had to find what I felt was a murder weapon. It had to be something “natural” so I found a big crystal and did the deed. top
I tried hard to smash it all – some things don’t break – that was my most striking revelation – some things don’t break (The crystal and one shell just wouldn’t) – life can empty and fill me, give me moments of joy and sorrow – whatever happens – some core of me will always be there – some things don’t break. Its actually hard to comprehend that core – and perhaps even harder to hear that coming from myself – it is what my mother always said – “you can cope”. Perhaps I want to know that some things will break – I am not sure that the indestructible core is necessarily good. Perhaps it is – I feel though That whatever I have ever felt about it at a subconscious level I should begin to acknowledge positively this indestructible core – and learn to thank my mother for her recognition of it – rather then continue to resent her for her encouragement of it. As a mother she would have known instinctively what was good for my long term growth – phew. top
Some things do smash and others bend and change shape. Others would need different forces – perhaps fire or water to affect them – I did not want to do that. Just happy with the smashing. So my recognition – some things don’t break – the core is constant and strong and should be recognised and nourished as such. Some things do break – that becomes part of the cycle – what holds all the different elements together – the smashed bowl, the bruised and broken petals , the tiny bits of shell ? Love. As women we gather everything together with our immense capacity to love unconditionally and always. For me that love ( and perhaps it is that source that I was trying, but failed to represent in the piece I chose) is represented here by the quilt top. Because when I had to pick all of the broken pieces up – gather them – all I did was gather the quilt top around the pieces and it made another ‘bowl’ ! Just reminding me again of the ongoing cyclical nature of all these things. top
After all of this I was quite drained – I needed to have a sleep – which I did – and then I went to Pilates and after that I felt better. I felt guilty that I had slept – can you believe it – after Pilates I again realised that if I want to be creative I need to rest and give myself the chance and time to be creative – it is not possible if the bowl, the vessel of life is empty – then creation and recreation is not possible. So I have some serious work to do on myself ! top
Thank you for insisting I do this – You see more of me than I do – I appreciate it.
Thoughts on Space
10 June 2005
Katty, This space thisng has me captivated from several angles – so will just ramble through this. Space is nothing really – its hollow – just a container – if I think of space and liken it to the bowl – the container, the vessel – it is empty – until you imbue it with meaning. And so the space can be many things – in reality and practically as it is used for different things(like a bowl !) and spiritually – that is as different people and lives both bring varying energies to bear on the space, and as people read those energies differently and so make their own meanings. O.K. bear with me here. What I think happens is that space then ( wow and to think I can also be a creative geographer here !!!) becomes place – place being a space with meaning – but now what has happened – and this has confounded geographers as scientists off course – is how can a space – carry so many different meanings – AND while it carries a particular meaning at a moment in time ( a prison) it then also carries different meanings for those who interact with that space and make it their place – OR those who refuse to make it a meaningful place – and simply survive in the space. So it all gets rather messy – but I am enjoying this Where I am getting to is that a place, to me, either feels good or bad –my gut says it has more to do with the energy that is being brought to the place currently rather than the energy that is left behind – but I have never been to Auschwitz so … top Perhaps I think rationally and feel emotionally though that souls that are gone do not leave behind sadness or bad feelings or negativity – they move on – and if they are around it is because they want to be around and like to be around – I could be wrong – Where this takes me personally is that the space itself perhaps does not need to be cleansed because it is not dirty – it is not negative – it is a space – it is the meaning that you bring to that space that turns it into the place you have described – how does Anni describe that space, How does Tanya describe it ? Also I sense that this space has been specifically chosen ? So perhaps the brief that is forming in my head is the woman now and then and then and future is imprisoned by herself – the space being used has been chosen for a purpose – I am certain it was not arbitrary. There are just so many layers to this but largely it rests, like all of life, on choice. I am not going to send this now – I don’t want to wreck your preparation time so I will send it tomorrow evening or it will come through the ethers in the day ! Have a great read. A thought – if anything one needs to ( these little pictures appear in my head now and then) channel the white light into the space – Phew – my first pic was of white cloth and then of a white darth vader type light stick that could be poked into corners and brushed across everything and then everything would be protected – almost not a process of cleansing the space but ensuring that the art that was there – did not take on ( by virtue of our reading of it) any of the energy that might not be desired that was hanging around. Also from the people that might view it – so things would be cocooned in white light gees – sorry that was weird. I will now stop so that I don’t scramble your thoughts up any more. I am now exhausted. Thanks – loads of love Claudia
27 May 2005
Where has exploring the theme of 'ansisters' taken you?
I’m not sure – What its making me think about is my own personal previous ‘lives’ many of which have involved a lot of pain and healing – mostly as a woman. At the moment I am trying to figure out how that all gets worked into what I do creatively – and am having difficulty with this because (I think) the vast majority of my creative energy is invested in my teaching. Perhaps that’s an excuse for not exploring this further – but what I am trying to do is figure out my choices at present and how they are informed by what has preceded me – either through my souls journey through time or the connections I have to the others that have preceded me. I am not entirely convinced that these are separate. I suppose I am also discovering in my exploration that I have a lot to explore and I am patient – I firmly believe in synchronicity – that is why I am involved in this at all and, having begun the process in my head – I have now shifted to trying to let go and go where the process takes me. I think exploring this is also making me more conscious of the power of my self and the women I have been and the women that inform who I am now and have been. Not sure if I am making any sense.
What are your thoughts on the world we've inherited from our ansisters?
Well – following on from what I have just said – since I believe I have been around for some time ( a long time actually!) I think I have inherited what I have made – weird thought perhaps – so I suppose I am saying that I believe I haven’t just “inherited” from my ansisters in a passive sense – but since I am also my own ansister – I am also responsible for what I/we have now. My thoughts on it ? Hmm I have a long way to go – I think as women we frequently try to hard – I know I do. I think I often miss the plot – perhaps that’s why I have been around for so long and that’s where thinking about this and doing this is great – it brings to my conscious level things that I may not have given any consideration. I think our world today is pretty amazing and horrible all in the same breath – but I think it has always been like that – just the details of things have changed –and the way we engage those details – but for the rest our position in society and within ourselves is pretty crystal and murky all in one !
Do you feel you have a message from your predecessors? Or have you come to some insight in the process of investigating them? If so, what is it?
No – and yes – my message – but I think its from my soul – is that I cannot be broken. I have ignored this because it means that I am strong and can and do cope ( dare I say the word) and I suppose – as I said in my bowl ceremony documentation- that I have always resented this since it came from my mother – you will cope she always said – and I always figured she was just trying to skive off her motherhood – but it seems that she was better at figuring me out – and was trying to tell me this for a long time – but as mothers and daughters will know – you seldom learn from your parents – or certainly not from what they tell you. So I suppose I do have a message – and I am learning to embrace this as a quality rather than a curse !
Why do you engage in this creative collaboration?
Why am I engaging in this – I’d like to say because I have been talked into it – but that would be an excuse – I was but I could have said no – I suppose it fits n with my understanding of the world as a synchronic reality – I don’t fight that. TO me this is and will be a life altering experience and who wouldn’t want to be involved in such a process?
What are you hoping to communicate through your intended artwork?
I think that there is a past that is good and strong and sound even if there are weaknesses and simplicities – it provides the basis from which to grow and experiment and be. And that holds true even if there are things about the past that are weak and bad and negative. There is always beauty, there is always hope there is always life and joy and we can never loose sight of that – and I think that is what women have – that is a womans strength and beauty – and that is perhaps why men without violence and aggression stand so powerless before us .
Please describe this artwork/production/play/song/series of poems that you are busy with.
How I intend to communicate that is, I think reasonably well set out on the first page – the second point. I know that isn’t detailed but its what I know now.
How has your creative journey before this project prepared you for taking part in this?
I have been involved with quilting, fabric, having fun with fabric and in particular colour for 10 years now – and have moved from the very traditional to simply using fabric as my paint. I have explored alternative healing, working with my guide (Channeling), meditation and stuff like that. I live. I breath. I work. I play. I love. I am passionate. And I cry when I see other’s pain. Perhaps that is what I try to use my colour for. I value life-mine and that of those around me – it is a precious gift and I view my life as my creative process – I cannot separate it from anything. I learn every day
Please tell us a little more about where you've been, what you've done creatively speaking.
I think I’ve done a bit of that in the previous question. At a more practical level I have explored all sorts of avenues of fibre art – I don’t do things that are very user friendly (?) Or perhaps being a new art form it is difficult to have things accepted for exhibitions – I don’t know – I have focused on doing what I am enjoying at the time and relaxing about it and thinking about what for at a later date –so it might be a gift or go on exhibition locally or whatever. I have also taken a couple of drawing lessons – which demonstrated to me that I could. But I enjoy the ease of fabric – the texture and the fun that mixing media is – So I work with Fabric as one of the paints – and then whatever else might be useful.
Posted 27 June 2005, www.face.org.za, author: Claudia Chandler.