Processing loss and finding inspiration

At the beginning of May, a dear friend passed away and it has effected me more deeply than I could have imagined. David introduced me to Roy shortly after I moved to New York City in 1998. I had just started working in publishing and he had been in the industry for many years. He was somewhat of a mentor and able to help guide me as a young professional experiencing the corporate world for the first time. We developed a friendship and would talk a couple times a month about work, life, and anything else. This continued well after I was "established" in the corporate culture and we continued to build our friendship. When I started making ceramics, he was very encouraging and would give me constructive criticism, sometimes a bit harsh, but honest. When I made my first birch piece, he told me he thought I might be onto something.
After David and I moved out of the city up to the Catskills, I started checking in Roy every Sunday. Sometimes only a text or two, but often all was needed. Whenever I got down to the city, we would have lunch. One day he asked me about weaving. He knew I had a small loom and wanted to know what it was like. Next thing I know, he's weaving everyday, filling drawers with yarn and different types of fiber. On Sundays he would send me photos of what he made that week. I started getting little swatches and napkins in the mail. One piece was a stiff square of woven jute.  A note was attached saying he thought it would look good next to my ceramics.  I set it aside and forgot about it.
Shortly after he died, I was sitting on my mediation cushion and looked across the room and saw the piece of jute sticking out under a vase. At that moment, I knew I had to do something with it and I had inspiration almost instantly. I knew I wanted to press it into clay as texture. An experiment I had to try, similar to when I found the perfect round of birch bark in my back yard, but this one was loaded with emotion. I would be taking his craft and mine, and putting them together.  As I proceeded, every step of making the first piece had me thinking about him and what he would think of what I was doing, I kept going because I knew he approved.
Inspiration is always around us, and it was that particular moment I subconsciously put pieces together and brought it to the surface. I realized, when I was reading his obituary and memorial comments, I only knew a small part of who he was. I knew him through the lens of our friendship. I knew him through our shared interests, and through the way he guided and mentored me. We never talked about the past, what we had been through or where we had been. At times it made me think I didn't know him at all, and it made me wish I had asked more questions. But we all have these different lives and "threads" in our lives. Some overlap and some are independent. With the risk of being sappy, my thread is just one fraction in the tapestry of his life. It doesn't make it any less valuable to the whole, much like one thread of jute in the woven piece.
I miss Roy, and months later I'm still mourning his death. But the impression he left in me is deep, and for that I'm ever thankful and I feel a part of him will live on with what I do and how I choose to live my life. With that said, I made a handful of mugs and a vase with the jute he gave me. I'm happy with how they came out. The choice of white glaze is for him as well. He loved white pottery and would always suggest white glaze if I asked "what color?" So when I look at the jute texture in the clay, I see the influence this man has had on my life and career. Thank you Roy, you may not be physically here, but you live on with what I do.

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  • Ronald Harte on

    So very important,
    Thank you for sharing this.

  • Gary on

    I absolutely love this.

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