Every now and then you meet someone who you get along with so well you know they will always be in your life. Lauren has been one of those friends for me. We met in college while we were studying abroad in England. Instant friends, we bonded while traveling, visiting art museums and eating pints of ice cream together.
I’ve been wanting to visit her for years in any of the various cities she has lived in, I just never made the time. Moving from Guatemala to Nebraska, and most recently to New Mexico. She is building her career as a potter. In between traveling for residencies, she has set up a studio in the most idillic valley, surrounded by expansive hills and grasslands.
When Lauren invited me to come for a visit, enticing me with one-on-one workshops in her studio, I could no longer put it off. This visit needed to happen. Two weeks later, I was on an airplane on my way to New Mexico.
Sitting on the plane in between two well fed business men, I thought about the trip ahead of me. I was thankful to be out-and-about experiencing someplace new. Someplace on my own. Someplace that held adventure but with the promise of a return home. When I landed, Lauren was there waiting for me and it finally set in that this trip was happening.
Every morning I would be greeted by a skinny, bright beam of light pushing it’s way through the crack of my closed bedroom door. It was eagerly waiting for me to open the door so it could flood the room with warm, bright light and remind me what sunshine was like.
Lauren and I would sit in her sunny dining room and have breakfast together. Before each meal I would choose which mug and dish I wanted to use, exploring her collection of colorful pottery from various artists that filled her kitchen shelves.
My pottery experience consists of four years of high school and a community education class I took last year. I have a good sense of basic techniques, but most of what I’ve created has been slightly off-center pots thrown on the wheel, glazed by being dunked into a bucket of slip. Lauren has been focussing on hand-building and using a transfer process to add design to clay surfaces. I had never done anything like this before so I was excited to learn something new.
After a quick brainstorm of ideas, I decided to spend the week making a set of four octagonal dinner plates. I had never made plates before, let a lone a set. Each day Lauren would walk me through the steps I needed to learn and then I would try them for myself, getting better with each plate I did. She worked next to me, on a large rectangular table covered with canvas, drinking tea and talking about where we found ourselves in life. Shelves of glaze in small plastic containers lined the wall above our heads. Whenever I had a question about my work, she would stop working on the plate commission she was painting to give me a hand.
Lauren would often say how much fun she was having and how glad she was to have company in the studio. It couldn’t possibly compare with how amazing I felt, appreciating the opportunity to work in an art studio all day with a talented artist and friend.
As much fun as we both were having, there were more things we wanted to get in each day. The sun and the hills could only be ignored for so long. By mid-afternoon we would cover up what were were working on with plastic, make sure the heater was turned off and then head out the door for the trails.
Timing was close, but I finished my plates before I had to head home. They're currently drying, awaiting the firing process. Stay tuned for a final photo.
In the mean time, take a look at Lauren's amazing work.