Wednesday, May 20, 2009

About an uncle.

I was in the studio last night for a little while, most of which was spent in a meeting regarding our upcoming Guild fundraiser event. Not the way I like my time to be spent generally, but being there was the responsible thing to do. I'll try to convince myself it was worth it.

I spent some time working on a couple chalices, one of which will be part of a communion set order, as well as the paten, or plate, to accompany it. I also finished up another one of my vases and glazed a couple of pieces. I forgot to take my camera, so no pictures. Sorry. Maybe next time.

Also on the agenda in the near future is the necessary shooting and posting of new work. I did come home from the studio with a half dozen freshly fired pieces last week, and there was a batch of work at the end of April that went straight to sale without photography. Sadly, I still have most of those!

In the meantime, here's a pot that I didn't make. This is a piece by my late uncle, Timothy Langholz. Tim was an extremely gifted artist and a prolific potter, selling his wares nationally at fine arts and crafts festivals. Tim's work was extremely unique, and decorated with a geometric precision that makes my head hurt. This piece is titled "Hiding Cat," and is featured on his website, which his family has kept online in his memory.

I had the opportunity to "work" with Tim on two distinct occasions - work used lightly, as work and play were never clear distinctions in Tim's world.

First, when I was thirteen, I spent a day with Tim in his rural studio in Northeast Iowa. I tried my hand at the wheel, which was quite unsuccessful, and then spent the better part of an afternoon decorating a trio of large chargers that Tim had thrown earlier that week. One of these is in our home and will be for a long time, and the other two I believe are still in my parents' possession.

Last, Tim invited me to accompany him in July 2008 while he exhibited at the Cherry Creek Art Festival in Denver. I spent four days with him, setting up, tending booth, making friends with our neighbors. It was an amazing experience of fun and learning, and hard work. Tim wasn't sure what my duties would be in helping him out - he told me originally that my primary responsibility was to provide him company and help allay the boredom and anxiety that can creep up on you if a sale is slow.

I must not have been too bad of a helping hand. The first day started pretty menially - fetching coffee, carrying bins of pots, unloading bins of pots, storing bins of pots... A few hours in he was letting me handle most sales - while I was dealing with money and packing up purchased pottery, he could converse freely with newfound patrons. By that afternoon, he would leave me for 10 or 15 minutes at a time to man the booth while he perused the neighboring artists.

By midmorning the next day, I would turn around and find Tim missing without a word - fully entrusted with his tent and his pots. Sometimes he'd be gone an hour at a time. By setup on the third day, he was letting me price his work and arrange the display in the tent. My grandmother, who lived in the same town as Tim, later told me that he talked for weeks about how much fun it was to have me around, and how helpful I was. I'm glad he told her so.

I learned a lot that weekend - about what it takes to be a successful artist, the work and stress that accompanies a show, how to relate to those who appreciate your work. He called that, "Poking people, to see what kind of noise they'll make." Sometimes they're intrigued by you, or your work. And sometimes you get a scowl as they scutter away. I learned more about he proper display of work, about the adequate care and feeding of pots whilst on the road. I learned a few little games that can help you pass the time on a hot July day.

When Tim passed away last fall, I kept coming back to my recollections of that weekend in Denver, and all the people we met, all the people who took his pots home. Many brief interactions, and some lifelong connections. A woman who had bought work from Tim in Minnesota, and Arizona, and found him in Colorado. A young man just passing through on his way to a friend's wedding cross-country who couldn't pass up the vase featuring the cat-butt. Garry, the photographer 2 tents town who praised us for our strong, German surname. Every person who lined up a dozen tiny bowls comparing and contrasting the designs, trying to find the right match. The folks that couldn't buy anything, but were amazed by his work and so interested in talking with us about the pottery.

Such small interactions, such important connections. To share your work, your art, your passion, with another person - to relate, to converse, to send home with them a piece of yourself in clay form - this is what is amazing about being the artist. Whether you sell two pots or two hundred, whether it's a $500 vase or a mug you pass on to a friend, complimentary. I think these connections are what it's all about.

Tim definitely made that connection with the people who own his pots. He is, and will be, greatly missed.

(Thanks for indulging me in my lunch-hour cathartic experience.)


VictorX said...

Mmmm... Free heart shaped mug.

Luke said...

Yup, that one was made just for you. Man, I wish I could replicate that glaze with any consistency.

Anonymous said...

Saw Anita and she told me about this remembrance of Tim. Thank you for sharing this. I was thinking how excited Tim would be preparing for Cherry Creek and felt sad that he wouldn't be there this year. But I am so happy he experienced it once and really did well and enjoyed it so much. I think your pottery is lovely. I hope when the economy turns around, people will, once again, support the arts.
Thanks, Helen Laitinen, Annette's mom