I guess it was about the middle of January that Jim called me. He had talked to the director of the fire department about me, and clay. He still couldn’t get it out of his head, and wanted to know if I’d be willing to come down there.
They had discussed the idea of a workshop there and he wanted me to come. I told him that I have a big Spring show at the Botanical Gardens in Hunstville, AL, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything until after that, but yes, I think we could work something out. And the games began.
Jim likes to text. I got several texts from him in the days following that discussion. His director wanted me to write something up to explain what would happen if we did this, and what our goals would be. Without going into any details, he wanted me to understand that his guys would be resistant to this, but he believed what I told him about clay’s ability to manage my stress so well, and he wanted to further explore that idea with his team there in Biloxi. Don’t forget that I had seen first hand these guys experiencing the worst disaster in the Gulf’s history. I knew they had to have stress on a daily basis. I knew Jim had been through much more than any thirty nine year old should ever experience. And he knew the same about me.
Communication went dark again while I struggled to get ready for my show. And struggle I did. I had been experiencing so many problems with my pottery in the past year, and I was headed to the longest show I had ever done. 5 days of selling. And I had one box of pottery ready to go. My head was down and it was all I could do not to give up all hope of doing this show. I was losing confidence on a daily basis and I didn’t want to share my panic with Jim, so I just kept fighting to get it right. Long story short, it took several engineers, a chemist, a kiln company and a clay manufacturer to get the problems resolved. And none of this happened until 3 weeks before the show. It was 3 days before the show that another issue was resolved, and the last firing was actually the day before I left for Alabama. I felt like I had been through the ringer.
Here is a little note that may give you a little insight as to how I really was feeling in the months before the show in April:
Written March 6, 2016
Thinking about giving up…
Yesterday was a hard day for me. I’ve been trying to solve a problem for a long time, and the solution keeps avoiding me. I’ve tried everything I can think of, tried
everything experts have told me to do, and once again, I failed yesterday, and, I am thinking about giving up.
I have created so many beautiful things since I found clay, and sometimes I wonder if the few things I’m getting out of it lately are worth the effort of all
of the failures I’m experiencing. I wasn’t even trying to stretch it yesterday. I just wanted something to go right. It was a new firing schedule that had hopes of
keeping my pieces from breaking after a glaze firing. And it looked like it was going to work when I last checked the kiln and it was at 2100 degrees and going
This morning I woke up, and checked the reading on the kiln. It should have read CMPLT, and instead read E-1. This means that there was an error before the firing
was complete, in the heating up segment of the firing. Sometime after 2100 degrees. Since it’s Sunday, I will have to wait until tomorrow to call Sarah at Olympic Kilns
to find out her thoughts on the whole thing. Until then I can’t touch it.
She had given me the new firing schedule last Monday, and because of her confidence that this would resolve the problem, I went out on a limb and made some pieces that
even I will like. I was stretching my limits, including several different lines for my upcoming show, at the Botanical Gardens in Huntsville, AL. They called me and
asked me to participate. The head of the Gardens called ME. She liked my work. My dad is so proud, and I really want to make a good show, so I’m stretching my limits
to make it really special. The problem is that I’m losing about half the load to breakage after each firing. Sending a piece into the kiln is like sending calves to
slaughter – and it’s making me sick. When I called Sarah, she thought the problem lied in the fact that the kiln was cooling too quickly. She quickly gave me a schedule
to enter into the kiln, for both the bisque fire and the glaze fire. “Let me know how it goes,” she said when we got off the phone.
Tomorrow that will have been two weeks ago, and in the meantime I have made some pieces that I put real work in. I made bigger pieces that I’m really excited about. I
had confidence that I hadn’t had in a long time and as I nervously got the pieces ready to fire, I have to admit, I was afraid of this firing. Not so much because of
the dozens of pieces that I was putting to slaughter, but because if it didn’t do well, I was afraid I might want to give up.
And here we are. Another ERROR.
So this morning, I looked at my phone for the first time in two weeks (catch me if you can kind of weeks), and saw a message from my son’s girlfriend. Yesterday was
also my son’s 27th birthday. I realized last week that I have basically given up there, too. It just hurts too much to keep failing, only to try again, and get another
error. So I hadn’t done anything for his birthday. Not even a message on FB. I had sent them a gift last month for a house warming for their first home, and again,
no response. Nothing. From either of them. Until last night, at 9:18, I got a thank you note from her for the “lovely” gift. I saw it this morning and sent her a thank
you for making Ryan’s birthday so special, and for posting photos of him on FB. Seeing him happy is the main thing, I suppose. I remembered how I felt when they
asked me if I wanted insurance on the package I sent. I wanted to scream “YES! I want insurance!!! Can you please make sure this gets where it’s going, and that it
changes everything!!!!” But all I said was, “No. That’s ok.” Thinking, how can I insure something that’s already so broken, it would be a futile insurance policy?
The part of me that doesn’t give up thought, “Wow. 9:18 on his birthday, I get a message from her. Is he trying to communicate? Is she? Is there hope?” The part of me
that still hopes saw that error this morning on the kiln, and it just all felt so symbolic. Maybe I should give up. On Lovelady Creations. Both of them. Pottery and my
son. It’s just making me feel too sad. Like a failure at every pass. I love clay. I love my son. And every attempt I make at either fails.
Just lately, I’ve started dreaming again. The past two weeks, with renewed hope, I accomplished so much. We even went to see a house yesterday. A house that seems to
be more than perfect for our forever home. As I touched the rock formations the prior owner had built, I couldn’t help but feel connected. I couldn’t help but think
of the 411 tons of stone that my hands placed on the property that we lost 4 years ago. It was my first home, and I loved it. Still do. But the bank got it along with
the rest of my dreams. It’s been a long time since I felt that connection to a property. I don’t want to want anything. I don’t want to feel that connection. I don’t
want to want. And I don’t want to fight this hard for such simple things like my son to love me, to have a home, even simpler, my kiln to work.
So, I’m at a cross road: keep fighting for it all, keep dreaming, keep trying, or give up. I’ve been fighting this battle for my son for 24 years now, and I’m tired. I’m
tired of rejection. I’m tired of hearing people feel sorry for me, being angry at him, not knowing what to say for encouragement. I can’t stand to think of my dad cry
again when he talks about his grandson with such confusion. He’s eighty years old and should be surrounded by all of his family, feeling the love from every one of us.
But that isn’t how it will be as long as he goes each day without hearing from my son. If I keep trying, all of the despair continues for everyone. I can keep from
complaining or expressing my own despair just to spare everyone else the heart ache, and that’s about where I am. It’s just lonely here. As for pottery, I’ve been trying
to solve this problem for almost a year now, and every time I hear that telling PING when a piece breaks into pieces. It’s a noise I’ve been hearing that has developed
this dread in me similar to the dread I have for the silence that comes from my first creation.
The dreaming part is fun though. Yesterday when I walked into this old shop full of scraps of metal, huge shelves, furniture, high ceilings and metal walls, full of
garbage and probably snakes and critters of all kinds, I couldn’t help but see a green house added on made of windows, morning glories greeting me on the way into my
huge clean studio from my wrap around porch. I saw a horse in the pasture. I saw great friends and family surrounding that porch with music and even helping out with the
huge project it would be if I had that workshop as my studio. I saw it. I felt it. It was so awesome to feel that much hope on a day when I was trying hard not to lose
it feeling as if I would die if I left my son another message only to receive utter silence in return. I just couldn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to ruin
the beautiful day I was having, dreaming of a life I don’t want to want. I don’t believe anymore in happy endings, but it would have really helped out if just one
thing that I had created had shown me some love yesterday.”
In the meantime, Jim would send a little shout out, and I’d reply, or I wouldn’t. I finally took the time to explain to him what was going on, and he understood. “But you are first in line for my attention when this show is over. Let’s hope it goes well so I can afford to follow through with our plans!” We both had our fingers crossed.
To my surprise, the show was the best I’d ever had. Nearly every piece was scooped up in the first three days, but we were able to spread it out and have a good showing every single day. There were a lot of stories that weekend, but this one is about Mississippi, so I’ll just say I came home with a smile on my face and enough money to not worry about heading South when I got home. In the back of my mind, I had been planning and plotting the trip, but had nothing written up just yet aside from my initial emails explaining our goals for the experiment with the director. When I got home, it was time to face this head on.
I texted Jim when I got home and said, “Ok kid, let’s talk dates.” With a little back and forth, we settled on May 15-22. Joe, the director, and I were on a first name basis by this point, and I put together a tentative itinerary for the week. I sent it over, and with a little back and forth we got the program scheduled.
Firehouse Clay Workshop Schedule Proposal: Introducing Firemen to Fire
Arrive Saturday May 14, 2016
Unload vehicle of kiln and clay supplies at fire house
Sunday, May 15 (Optional introductory firing)
Initial Raku firing: I am making pieces now that will be examples of pieces they can work on. This firing will be short, and mainly an introduction to let everyone know what they are working towards with the supplies that I have with me.
Monday, May 16
Early a.m., set up work stations. Will need a long table and chairs. I imagine that scheduling A workshop would be next to impossible with different shifts. Therefore, I would suggest that the stations be set up and I be on hand most of the day to introduce everyone to clay, based on their own schedules. This will give everyone time to work on pieces Monday and Tuesday and still remain flexible to accommodate the firemen’s work. If I am wrong about these assumptions, we can certainly suffice with a couple of set scheduled hours on Monday and Tuesday, which will still allow everyone to work on their pieces without too much pressure for time.
Monday, May 16, 6 – 8 p.m.
Family/Spouse clay workshop, cocktail party
Tuesday, May 17
Still working on pieces. At the end of Tuesday, we will have the pieces that will need to be transferred to the museum for bisque firing on Wednesday. Need to coordinate that firing with the museum once this schedule is approved.
Wednesday, May 18
Bisque firing with possible needs for preheat schedule.
Thursday, May 19
The pieces will be cooling in the kiln. No activities scheduled
Friday, May 20
Pick up pieces at the museum and transfer back to station. Glazing and Raku firing of the pieces done throughout the day.
Saturday, May 21
Final Raku Firing for family members
Load truck for Sunday departure
I can be available to help with any questions about setting up a studio or program, etc. if you decide you’d like to consider this a goal to work towards. Would like further discussion with museum on this.
Supplies I am bringing: (will add to as time gets closer)
Metal Garbage Cans
Tools, toys and project ideas (basically all the fun stuff in my studio)
Tables (long tables for individual work stations)
Painters canvas that will be cut into pieces for work stations
Outside area preferably on concrete for the Raku kiln
Horse hair if anyone has horses (long strands are great)
Med – Large leaves if anyone has elephant ear plants they want to bring
Water hose – I assume ya’ll have a few of those around, so I won’t bother bringing mine.
And a plan was born. Todd has been very busy at work these days and had told me there was little chance that he would be able to go with me. But when the actual dates were presented, he said, “That actually works for me! I can go!!!” And we were headed to Mississippi in May.