HE SAID: I woke up Thursday morning to a pot of hot coffee and ginger scones drizzled with honey, all served on the deck with the New York Times. There were also a couple of lovely anniversary presents: "Love Poems from the Japanese" translated by Kenneth Rexroth and a CD called "Class of 38," a compilation of works by composers born in 1938. Some of them — William Bolcom, John Harbison, Gloria Coates, Charles Wouorinen — I know and like. The others I'm anxious to hear. (I'm listening to the music as I write this.)
Because she had suggested pottery, I told Linda that she'd have to pick out her present herself. So, after spending the bulk of the morning lazing on the deck, enjoying the garden, we grabbed the checkbook and a camera and headed out of town. There's a bridge being re-consructed on County B, our normal route to Heather's (above). As a result we were forced to take some unfamiliar roads — always a treat; but we needn't have worried about getting lost. "Heather" had placed classy signs at nearly every intersection guiding us to her joint overlooking the river in Rockdale.
I'm not a motorcycle fan. I've always thought that it wouldn't take me any time at all to kill myself if I ever tried to ride one. But this beauty in the parking lot of Heather's nearly took my breath away. I can understand why someone would want to ride a work of art. It almost seemed a desecration to have to put something as mundane as a license plate on it.
After Linda finished her burger and I my tenderloin sandwich and fries special (the Thursday special), we drove a mile or so down "B", past Dilemma Road and turned in at the sign for Cambridge Wood Fired Pottery.
The address of Mark Skudlarek's pottery studio and home is "Tranquil Lane", and I don't believe there was ever a more appropriately named street. It is, in fact, more of a very long gravel driveway since they are the only ones who live on the lane; but it is a charming and tranquil place to visit.
Mark met us as we got out of the truck with his usual winning smile and enthusiastic handshake. When we mentioned that it was our anniversary he said that he and his wife Gaia had married within months of us. Mark and I also both graduated from St. John's in Minnesota, although some years apart. We spent the obligatory half hour catching up on personal news and politics before we excused ourselves to do some shopping in his indoor and outdoor sales areas while he went back to work throwing pots.
An earlier post had gotten Linda and I talking about art in the garden and how Mark's big pots looked so good almost anywhere we placed them. We decided then that we would think about adding at least one more big pot to our garden collection.
One of the reason's we are so enamored of Mark's work is that it is wood fired. The process is one that a 15th century Japanese artisan would be very familiar with. With very few exceptions, such as the modern pyrometer for measuring the extremely high temperatures reached in the kiln, very little has changed in the last 500 years. It still requires lots of wood and the patience and endurance to feed a fire continuously for three, five, or sometimes more days.
Mark's is a multi-chambered kiln, and he mentioned that he was rebuilding the third chamber. (The kiln is located under the roof behind the woodpiles and takes up most of the length of that space). While we were checking that out we were distracted by their chickens
Penned at night for their protection, during the day they roam around the studio and kiln shed. They didn't seem the least bit afraid of us
Linda was clearly smitten with the texture on this urn, and I certainly wouldn't have objected if she had decided that it was the one. But when we rejoined Mark in his studio he showed us three even larger pots he was working on. He explained how he had devised a way to add a makeshift concrete fly wheel to a commercial banding wheel to make a (not so) crude kick wheel for smoothing coil-built pots more efficiently.
Since his next firing is less than a month away, we decided to put off a decision until we saw these new works finished.
By the time we got home we each had just enough time to get ready for work. But it was, by all accounts, a lovely way to spend an anniversary.
SHE SAID: Mark Skudlarek has his own beautiful Web site where you can see pictures of his pots and the firing process which is pretty amazing in a wood-fired kiln like his. The site also has a link to his Etsy online shop.