Sunday, November 27, 2011
Ceramic Cockroach Coffee Mug by Catherine Reece
Visit Catherine’s Etsy Store, Village Clayworks
Traveling for Thanksgiving gave me some time to catch up on my reading. There’s nothing quite like flying or commuting in general to make some headway in a book.
So it was with great pleasure that I jumped into The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is filled with many gems of wisdom which seem especially poignant over the holidays. One of the recommendations that jumped out at me was her suggestion to start a collection. The author had started to collect bluebirds inspired by the legend of the “bluebirds of happiness.” Her hunt for new bluebirds and the cultivation of her “flock” had been the occasion of many happy experiences and new adventures. It made me think: do I collect anything? So many of the past years have been about streamlining and reducing the unnecessary objects that I had unintentionally collected over time. Then I remembered that, indeed, I do collect something…I collect mugs.
I’ll admit that it’s rather mundane as a far as a bona fide collection goes. I mean, I can think of many more exciting collections (modern art, jewels, exotic memorabilia, racing cars….even stamps or garden gnomes sound a little more adventurous), but I get a great sense of satisfaction adding to my utilitarian mug collection. After all, many mugs come and go as one loses a handle here or eventually breaks there (the retirement of a good mug is always an emotional moment), so there is a very practical need to resupply and add new members to my motley crew of cups.
When I am traveling, I try to pick up the silliest mug I can find. I have one from the Hearst Castle (the biggest and most sprawlingly opulent that they had, of course), a pearlescent hummingbird from Galveston Island, even a mug from the Undertaker’s University at the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston (a great museum if you get a chance to go). I will never forget collecting my first mug from the Montrose Arts Fair in Houston. It had a dragon’s face: the eyes and nose set in a round, red clay bowl indented with scales, with the dragon’s tail forming the handle and fired with a beautifully sparkley raku. Every drink served in this cup instantly became a magic potion! Now that I am reflecting on my current collection, it certainly seems that it could use some love….but as shabby as it is, it still gives me a unique pleasure.
Recently at a show we did up in Petaluma, I picked up a new star to my collection: a Cockroach Mug by ceramic artist Catherine Reece (pictured above). Drinking from it is far sweeter than any sugar I could add to the hot coffee inside. I have always been drawn to ceramics and, after years of doing craft shows, I know the extra effort that it takes for clay & ceramic artists to bring their work to a show: the crating, hauling, and careful packaging it takes…and that is just the logistics of bringing the work there. Imagine the hand-sculpting or throwing, the firing, the glazing and the detailing that goes into each one! One thing is for sure: there’s a lot of love invested in each hand-made piece. It makes me appreciate the relative ease that it takes to bring felt to a show: though I may worry about ironing and creasing, I don’t need to worry about things getting broken.
So, as the first step in my own Happiness Project, I have now made it my resolution to never let an opportunity pass to add a new handmade mug to my collection, especially when doing craft shows. Not only does the act of collecting give me great joy, but it is a thank you to the love and effort that clay artists have for their craft. Everytime I use one of my special mugs, it makes the experience so much sweeter, imbuing happy memories to simple moments.