Steps One and Two

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This is my current arts & crafts project at the Day Hospital. I wish I had had my proper camera on hand, because these pictures don’t do the colours any justice. Wednesday mornings are dedicated to both a kitchen session and ceramics. The people in cooking prepare a lunch and desert for the whole group and at lunchtime we all sit around a very large table and share the meal together. I’m especially fond of the arts & crafts portion of it, not so much excited about cooking, but that’s okay because everybody chooses where they prefer to be. As for the meals, please don’t say anything to anyone, as I don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, but suffice it to say the that results tend to be rather uneven. Last week we had an Persian meal planned and organized by a woman from Iran and it was absolutely delicious, restaurant quality food. Sometimes things don’t go quite as planned, like the rainbow cake that failed to rise a couple of weeks ago, though we were all awed by the beautiful coloring or the cake which was done with subtle, soft colours, and ended up looking like a tie-dye project. Today was pasta with meatballs, coordinated by an Italian lady. The kitchen crew mixed up the quantities and made twice as much pasta as called for, so there wasn’t quite as much sauce as there should have been. Dessert was a walnut cake, a Greek woman’s parting gift before being discharged—it had large chunks of walnuts and was moistened with syrup. It was so delicious I had one huge piece then took two more home—one of which already got washed down with a glass of milk when I got here. I’ll be making this easy to prepare Clafoutis next week and will probably have to freeze the cherries till then (which means I get to do all that pitting, sans pitter, all by myself (yuck), but it’s a safe bet that things shouldn’t go wrong after that unless we forget it in the oven (not likely with so many of us suffering from high anxiety).

In the meantime, I’m feeling right in my elements in the workshop. It’s the first time I get to play with mosaics and I’m enjoying the process tremendously. The end product is meant to be a trivet—or a hotplate— and will measure 7.5” square (19 cm). We’re free to do anything we want during this session. Some people do wood-burning (I just want to know—but why?), you can do ceramics, for which they have glazes and an oven, there’s Bob the carpenter, a friendly volunteer who’s always on hand to help out with woodwork of any kind, like making shelves and benches, you can draw, you can paint, you can sew… you can make a bench weaved with rope, pretty much anything goes. Of course, I started out with a bit of online research, with the idea that I would produce tile work with a stunning mauresque design (a ‘simple’ moorish tile-work sample shown top left). Then I remembered that I always tend to reach for unattainable ideals and am inevitably disappointed with whatever I do come up with, so I scrapped that idea. There are several large containers filled with small tiles of all sorts, some of them sorted by shape and colour, many of them just thrown together pell-mell. My first step was to sift through the piles to find the more intestingly coloured tiles. I quickly realized I would not find enough tiles of any given colour to create a real pattern, so I simply laid them down randomly. Not having a chosen palette to work with, that became difficult so I started laying down some of the bountiful white tiles to create a kind of structure. At first I thought I’d create an added dimension by inserting large tiles here and there but that didn’t work for me. The next, and perhaps final step will be to build up the square to it’s final size, at which point I’ll probably want to tweak the colours before gluing and grouting down the whole thing. For the past two weeks now, I’ve been apprehensive about that tweaking step. That’s when my left brain usually kicks in and demands more order and structure, a logical organization following some kind of theory à la Kandinksy. Now that I think about it, that is the number one reason why I tend to leave projects unfinished, or rather why it is that I don’t make any attempts to start them at all, just to save me from having to battle those demons. But I think this time I’m in a safe place, so if that happens, I’ll remind myself “It’s just a bloody hotplate!” which hopefully will chase away that bitchy wanna-be Martha Stewart who sits there on my left lobe and insists on bossing me around.

Now she wants me to write: “Hope I didn’t bore you all with so many details. I swear I was going to write just a short blurb.”

But it is what it is and that’s all there is to it. Heh! :-)

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