I am having a hard time cutting my perennials back this year, because many of them are still showing blossoms! We've already had a couple of hard freezes, but they aren't letting go, so I'm leaving them be.

Last weekend I went to Frances Palmer's Pottery Sale at her Connecticut studio--a beautiful, roomy reconstructed barn. Outside the barn is her garden, which she fills every spring with dahlias of all shapes and sizes. She hasn't put her garden down yet either--but she has a better excuse: she was throwing dozens of pots for her sale.

I took a bit of time out from admiring her wares on sale upstairs to pay my respects to dahlias gone by.

Many of their frowzy heads were hanging limply over their hoops, too exhausted to go on another day.

Some still had their name tags attached, so the scene looked like the end of a fabulous dinner party, that point at which place cards and table settings are in wild disarray but who cares? Everyone's had such a good time. The colors on the desiccated flowers were dusty and faded, bleeding out of their edges like the makeup on very elderly women's cheeks.

The colors that are left in a winter garden are at first quite intense, as though in drying they give up the last burst of hue. They get flattened by the weight of frost, but even their prostration is appealing. I am so glad I was able to catch a last glimpse of this garden.

And I was charmed to see that the early afternoon sun gave me a glimpse of my own shadow crossing the garden gate, arm raised to take a picture. I can't stand daylight savings time; it gets dark way too early, and I have to put my Netflix account into overdrive.

And back inside the potting studio...

...there was the same kind of end-of-an-affair chaos.

All the signs of hard weeks' worth of work spread out on every available surface, some of the piles a veritable archaeology of what has inspired Frances this year.

I love visiting artists' ateliers; you learn so much about their work, and gain so much appreciation for their craft, by seeing how it is made. I spotted quite a few dahlias, in various states of decrepitude.

Frances often uses appliqued flowers as decorative elements on her pottery; the flowers are made in molds of the flowers out of her own garden just outside.

I find all the tools of the potter's trade intriguing, especially when they are covered with the graffiti of work--glaze-splattered cutters and knives, the discolored brushes and sponges.

And the detritus of pots--what is taken away to reveal the shape, the curls of wet clay caught in the bottom of a bowl, the plastic wrap that keeps the clay moist.

The process is part of the romance of any artist's work. Making a dish or a vase by hand is arduous, and to a large degree uncontrollable. Things blow up in the kiln, the glazes can sour, shapes slump or collapse--though these accidents sometimes account for happy discoveries. Still, the hand made is quintessentially a process of slow love. And when you buy the work of an artisan, you are investing not only in a piece of art, but in a promise that the slow way will never disappear.


helen tilston said...

Doninique- your tribute to your friends garden is so beautiful and exudes kindness. I love your analogy:
"the colors on the desiccated flowers were dusty and faded, bleeding out of their edges like the makeup on very elderly women's cheeks" That brought back fond memories of beautiful elderly mentors and family

Cristina said...

nice photos as usual, but my favourite one is the first: those fading flowers remind me of weary ballerinas, taking their time after a breath-taking performance.
highly poetic!

Karena said...

I adore Frances' art. Her pottery is so exquisite! Thank you for featuring her Dominique!


Art by Karena

quintessence said...

Love the analogy of the dinner party - like some wonderful Merchant Ivory scene. I'm so sorry I missed Frances' sale - her work is just lovely and has that character-rich artisanal quality that only handmade creations can capture.

karenleslie said...

i really loved this post. Frances' work is divine -- alluring and mysterious in its simplicity. i particularly liked your line "and when you buy the work of an artisan, you are investing not only in a piece of art, but in a promise that the slow way will never disappear." i find the art i buy enriches me and deepens me in those moments i take to appreciate them. i raise my cup and toast all the fine artists who make our world a more beautiful and interesting place.

Ashling said...

I just love this post...and the colors of the drying dying flowers being compared to makeup on an elderly woman's cheeks is absolutely exquisite. Thank you for a wonderful break in a busy day!

Väva! Veve! said...

You make the mess of an artist's studio seem so romantic! When I look at my own studio, I just see lots of chaos and things waiting to be tended. You have just helped me feel so much better about my mess! You are sincerely and cordially invited to my studio in Minneapolis, Minnesota (a recognized hotbed of culture and art!) to experience the process of weaving linen cloth by hand! . . . talk about SLOW! I weave cloth one joyful linen thread at a time! Please give me 24 hour notice however, so I can clear a path from the door to my loom!

Unknown said...

Always fun to see where other artists create...makes me feel better about my mess.....smiles.

Lines of Beauty said...

Beautiful ceramics and photos too.

The colors on the desiccated flowers were dusty and faded, bleeding out of their edges like the makeup on very elderly women's cheeks.


suzanneelizabeths.com said...

Those dahlias are simply stunning and majestic in a sad way. I'm surprised at the green in the garden...here in Evergreen Colorado everything, except the evergreens, is winter brown.

mary said...

I love this post and the work of artisans. The unique objects created with intention can never be equalled by mass production. The joy of simply creating is almost like touching God--no it is touching the infinite. Thanks.

Anne said...

What lovely pots! and love the photo of the 'detritus' of crumpled paper, coated brushes... great textures.

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