"I just want to make the world a beautiful place."
When The Farmer came home from baling hay, I told him about Jen's visit. She was the daughter of good friends of ours and he had known Jen since she was an infant. I told him what she said her career goal was and we both talked about how sweet the idea was.
Ever since that conversation with Jen, I have thought about her comment. How do you make the world a beautiful place? And what is a beautiful place? What is beautiful for me may not be beautiful for you. Do you create beauty with things that you buy and decorate with? Do you create beauty with good deeds? Do you create beauty by working for world peace? Do you create beauty by planting seeds to grow into beautiful blue lupines like in the children's book Miss Rumphius? Do you plant a beautiful garden to feed your neighbors? Do you create beauty by teaching people new things? Do you create beauty by seeing the beautiful in every little thing? Do you create beauty by sharing ideas and turning someone on to a new craft or technique that may change the course of their life?
When Jen first spoke those words to me, I thought about how they could be mis-construed - to be thought of as superficial. I can remember my mom talking about beauty only being skin-deep. We were to know that it was what was inside the person which was the most important - not what is on the outside. That physical beauty was not important and should not be thought of as the end all of end all.
The other day, we were talking about what makes people tick at dinner. We were talking about each of us and what was important to us in our individual lives - in fact it could be thought of as what we find beautiful. As I watch Julia grow into a young woman, I wonder what her path will be. Where will she find her inner passion and what she will find "beautiful". For her Dad, his idea of beauty is the natural world, his remarkable sheep, their life cycle and how we are feeding our community, and the love of the world and landscape around us that he farms and looks after everyday.
I've been thinking about what my "beauty" is. When am I the most fulfilled and happy? As I have been throwing pots the last couple weeks, I think about this as the wheel spins round and round, as I pull the clay up and form it into a cylinder, as I stretch the clay into a handle and attach it to the vessel. I think my definition of beauty is when I am deep into a project and have lost myself in it. When I am thinking about what I am making, planning on what it will look like, and then working it out. The thing could be a pot, a garden, a book, a painting, an embroidery, or a good meal. Often when the "thing" is done, the magic subsides and goes away. I still like the thing and find it pretty or useful but the real beauty for me is in the act of creation - the spark of my imagination and mind of what the thing will look like and then the intimate creation. I find it truly amazing that I can dream something up in my head and then make it happen with my hands. It doesn't always come out the way I originally thought it up and that is the fun of it - to see where I am led by the materials and the process.
I've been teaching classes here at our farm since 2009. Every year, I think about not doing them. Mostly I think about that because I don't want to go through the agony of cleaning my house. A couple years ago, I tried to let that go - the cleaning thing. It's hard because I always think of my mom cleaning before her mom came to visit - stressing out that everything has to be just right. I realized that the women that come here to learn from me really could care less if there is some dust and clutter. They aren't here to inspect my housekeeping skills (thank goodness). They are here to be inspired and to take away a little of the magic and beauty that I have made here at our farmhouse.
So those are my thoughts for today. If you are wondering what happened to our friend Jen, she found a good job in merchandising with Anthropologie and she literally did make the world a more physically beautiful place. And now she has a couple beautiful kids too.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on beauty. Leave them in the comments.
Here are some beautiful links for you to peruse today -- at least I find them beautiful.
•My friend Lisa is teaching at The Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton Maine this summer. Check out the classes here. Lots of beauty to make.
• Good article on Barbara Cooney, the author of Miss R here.
• I'm still crazy over Josef Frank's textiles. I just found a page I tore from Arts and Antiques over twenty years ago - that must have been where I discovered him before the www. Good article from NYT here.
p.s. There are still a few spots left in the July 15/16 Fabric Printing + Lampshade Painting Class. You can come for one or two days. Would love to see some of you here at the farm. Two days $360. One day $199. More info here.
Here are the lampshades that the students painted last year.
Here is a photo of some of the lampshades I have made.