It is time again to be driven by dreams

Shh! Don't tell anyone, but I snuck out of work an hour early Friday to spend some quality time with my sister.

The world was recognizing the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Sis and I were also keenly aware it would have been our sainted mama's 102 birthday.

For us, it was a heart-dart necessity to spend time together on Nov. 22. And also to be some of the first folks oohing and aaahing down the aisles at this weekend's Clayfolk show at the Medford Armory.

Sis and I are more than a decade apart in years. But we have common memories of proudly scribing our names, birth dates and grubby handprints in the ever-expanding cement patio at our aunt and uncle's place, which was, apparently, our family's version of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. We wedged our first mound of gritty stoneware clay in high school ceramics classes. We glazed our porcelain clay creations at various community art centers. We each created home art studios.

We need to spend more time in them. Together. We need to spend more time together. Period.

My little studio, adjacent to my riverside cottage, is more oriented toward creating painting and jewelry these days. But I still have my ceramics tools. And a little kiln. Still in its box. Unopened.

Sis' studio, however, is a true potter's heaven. Housed in her old barn are pottery wheels, high-fire kilns, pug mills, extruders, slab rollers and glazes galore.

Her studio currently houses a large kiln filled with our bisqueware. Waiting to be glazed.

Sis, the wheel wizard, spins out bowls, cups and containers that grace the homes of the people she loves. I am sipping pomegranate green tea from one of Sis' perfectly formed mugs as I type. Later today, my cottage will be redolent with the scent of barbecue beans and spicy Cajun sausage, slow-baked in my favorite cobalt-blue lidded casserole dish. Hers, of course.

I am not nearly as good on the wheel as Sis. Some days I can find center straight off. Other days I chase that mound of clay around the wheel in endless circles like dog going after its tail.

Hmm ... Metaphor? What metaphor?

Luckily, my focus has always been handbuilding. I'm all about the pinching, pushing, carving and burnishing. In high school, my ceramic zenith was creating an entire tea set — pot, creamer, sugar jar and cups — out of coils of stoneware. But my contributions to Sis' last kiln-load are simply a couple dozen tiny, hand-carved porcelain birds.

I've been making these birds for decades. Creating them is sort of a finger meditation. Each bird is unique, formed out of earth and good wishes. I give them away to people I love, especially when they come to visit.

"Put her in a window sill. Sing her your song from time to time," I tell them.

The first booth we visited at Clayfolk on Friday reconnected Sis and I with a potter we met a dozen years ago at a ceramics class held in a Grants Pass community center. Our last interaction was with the teacher of that same class. Each woman was thrilled to see my much-beloved Sis, who has remained in contact through ongoing workshops and shows. Each remembered me because I taught them how to make a bird, they said.

"I still have mine," said Gwen, smiling.

Sadly, I am down to my last little porcelain bird. And Sis has no more gifts to give either. Because these latest of our creations have been sitting forlorn in the barn for at least five years. Unglazed. Unappreciated.

Isn't it funny how we hop to like little soldiers when life directs us to do what we think we must. Go to work. Do the chores. Take care of everyone. Else.

Conversely, and for myriad reasons, Sis and I have found it too hard to make time to do some important things that are truly needful for our souls. But we are making a concerted effort to change that. To spend more time together, soothing and uplifting our spirits.

Creating art is where Sis and I find our centers. And deep connection. Decades ago, when we lived in separate states, we started an art-based business — Driven by Dreams. Then, amidst tears, we dissolved it because the distance was too great. Our lives were too busy.

It's time for our hearts to once again be driven by dreams, we agree. And it starts with finishing this kiln-load of creativity. So cheers to the sisters potter. And happy birthday Mom.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or

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