I began this series of posts on inspirations with the objects that first fascinated me as a preteen--the tiny snuff bottles in the collection at San Francisco's Asian Museum.
In that first post, I wrote about the varying qualities of translucency among and within each small work. The snuff bottles are very instructive with regard to the effects of glaze transparency, on design, in ceramic.
I recently realized that they may have had an even more far reaching effect on my own work. A few days ago, as I was doing some accounting, it occurred to me that, by now, I have made several hundred porcelain buttons--enough to fill a display case. I suddenly began to imagine what they might look like, all together. In my mind's eye, I pondered a "family reunion" of buttons in their own well-lit display case. No sooner did this picture form itself, than the snuff bottles, in their own display case, also appeared!
I was startled at the complementary similarity--the range of colors and textures, and the fact that both were functional work. With the creation of the first, very practical snuff bottle, who could imagine that it might eventually become an art form? And buttons? As I look over the progression in my own work, I see something similar taking place.
Do I know what to call it, or what to think? No. But, I am struck by the fact that it flows against two perennial (and stubborn) barriers to artistic estimation-- especially in the case of ceramic: functional -- and overall in art: small dimensions. Small and functional: potent gatekeepers.
However, the snuff bottles, and other small works I've mentioned in previous posts, seem to have somehow snuck past these two stern guardians! How did they do that? There seems to be some other value operating, one that supersedes the code! But, what is it?
In the case of all of the small work-- necessity, persistence and identity come to mind. The small works, in their service and endurance, have a soul. They are animated by purpose, both practical and artistic...small Pinocchios with true hearts, living lives alongside our own.
Inspire is to breathe life....they inspire me.
Certainly then, they have a soul. A work with soul: that is art.