This is a an old writing from when Enzien and I managed the Alberta Potters Association and were Editors of the Contact Newsletter. Enjoy!
Excerpts from The Book of Shards
The cup was placed in the drain tray, placed with care, safe and secure…….or so I thought. As I went back to the rest of the dishes I heard the pots shift in the tray, I turned just in time to see one of our favorite cups as it struck the floor. Eyes widened, heart skipped, then sank into my gut as I realized what just happened.
“%$#&….#@%&!!!!!!” Was all that could be said at that moment. My wife, hearing the noise, asked which piece was it that had broken, a common enough occurrence in the daily use of pots. I told her which one had been dispatched to pottery heaven or the shard graveyard, whichever you prefer, she tried to console me. “No point in getting too upset about it.” I picked up what was left of the cup and placed the shards inside it but I could not bring myself to throw it out yet. I placed it on the shelf, finished the dishes and continued about my daily routine, admonishing myself for being careless all the while the image of the breaking cup danced in my head for the rest of the day and the day after that and the day after that. In fact the falling cup bugged me for more than a week! I had broken pots before but none had bugged me as much as this one and after a week it was time to figure out just why this was so annoying.
The pot was made in our old studio in the city when a friend and fellow potter came to stay with us during the cool down after a wood firing. He is a compulsive thrower and can’t pass a potter’s wheel without making something. He made some of his standard wares; mugs, cups, a pitcher and then there was the cup.
It had a narrow base, thin walls that slightly flared outwards and upwards to a delicate lip, then with a metal rib, from the bottom to the top, flicked a vertical grove into the cup which made the lip undulate. This cup was not like the others, the grove was not as defined, not as bold or proud as the others, it wavered and yet at the same time seemed sure, there was life in this little grove, in this little pot. We all agreed it was a ‘good one’ and our friend said to us, “fire it however you want.” Knowing we would wood fire it he left it for us along with all the others he had thrown. Time passed and eventually we glazed it in a shino glaze and fired it in our wood kiln and a favorite little pot was born. We used this cup for wine and the odd spot of fine port from time to time. Eventually the crazing on the inside of the pot turned red, adding to its beauty.
I thought about the cup and the enjoyment I had in using it but this alone could not be the sole source of my loss. I have broken other pots of similar beauty and although occasionally disappointing, I have never been so effected by a broken pot. I put this puzzle away for a couple more days until I passed the broken pot upon the shelf and thought of its maker. Then it came to me. Our friend that made the pot got into a serious accident on his way home after we unloaded the wood kiln, this accident changed his life, how could it not? I then realized that the pot was more a symbol to me than just a nice wine cup, a symbol of who our friend was before the accident and this in turn is why I could not part with it. The symbolism of the cup was its primary and now only function.
I have kept the little broken pot, tucked away in a drawer, to be looked at from time to time until I can figure out what to do with it. When I look at it I am reminded of friendship, of good times and of what a simple little pot can teach us. Not all pots function as they should and some shards function better than the pots from whence they came.
Christian D Barr