Do you have a piece of art in your life that has stayed with you, inhabited you, maybe even guided you towards your destiny? So when you see it, or even a variation of it, you get a sense of coming home? It turns out that I do, although I can’t say that I truly knew it until I read a few pages towards the end of Donna Tartt’s novel, The Goldfinch. In these pages, she has the character of Hobie discussing art as a beacon for our destiny. “And the painting, above his head, was still the point where it all hinged: dreams and signs, past and future, luck and fate.” I ate those pages up, feasting on their foresight, because the truth of what was being said was so intrinsic to me. It was as if the author were writing my story.
To backtrack a little I grew up in England and, as a young woman, three things were true about me; I wanted to be an actress, I wanted no part of marriage and I knew nothing about pottery. In fact, at that time, I found myself drawn to fine china when I went to the fancy department stores in London and even though fine china falls under the same ceramic’s umbrella as pottery, it’s about as far removed from it as an RV is from a tent. So then how did I end up married to a wood-firing potter, 100 miles from the closest, professional theatrical hub and 6,000 miles from where I grew up? And more importantly, how did this life, which appeared nowhere in my young adult daydreams, end up being my bliss? So much so that I even made it the basis for my first novel, How to Make a Pot in 14 Easy Lessons.
Well apparently it was there all along, as Hobie suggests, secreted in art that captivated my interest. Even though I didn’t know pottery when I met my husband I do remember going to David Greig’s Grocery Shop as a little girl with my mother, and while she was looking at the cuts of meat at the butcher’s counter I was staring at the tiles on the wall. There was something eminently fascinating to me about art in this earthy format. I was drawn to the symmetry of the lines, the lines within the lines, the fact that the colored squares could make a pattern within the white background that would form a word. Words.
And I remember thinking how clever it was that they could use tiles of a different color to frame patterns, making them look like paintings hanging on the wall.
So when my husband and I made a tile sign to hang outside our pottery shop something stirred deep inside me but I don’t think I made the connection back to David Greig’s at that time.
And then there were the decorative pieces at the grocer’s shop. A sheep, a bull and David Greig’s signature piece – the thistle – which would have me standing, staring, completely lost in the image until I felt my mother tugging at the shoulder of my coat, telling me it was time to leave.
When I installed my husband’s own decorative tile pieces in our home and shop, the fish he loves to draw, the wildflowers indicative of the area in which we live, I did become that little girl again, staring in fascination at the art that could be created out of tiles.
And when we decided to use glaze test tiles on the floor, interspersed with production tiles, I could see the patterning again on the walls and counters of David Greig’s (which you may not be able to see clearly in this black and white photograph but if you look at the front of the display case it’s covered in white tiles with a repetitive, blue, thistle pattern in them).
But it wasn’t until we made the sign for our business that stands out by the highway that it all fell into place. As soon as my husband laid the finished tiles out on the floor of his studio I was captivated. The dark blue of the letters, the lines of the tiles dissecting but not distracting, the webbing of the glaze on the surface of some of the tiles, and the delectable spread of color. I didn’t even care that a migration of red (from atmospheric conditions inside the kiln) had splashed across the top of the sign, making it a little hard to read. It was art. My kind of art
I took great pleasure handling each of the tiles and gluing them on the wood frame for the sign. And when I finished and stood back, I knew I was home.
Of course it never occurred to me that these tiles were an indicator of my destiny. Not until I read the words that made the different parts of my life slot perfectly into place, like a dovetail joint in carpentry. “And isn’t that the whole point of things – beautiful things – that they connect you to some larger beauty? Those first images that crack your heart wide open and you spend the rest of your life chasing, or trying to recapture, in one way or another?” (from The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt, p.757)
Maybe your destiny lies in a piece of music, a plot of land, a photograph – maybe even in something you created. A friend of mine told me she was asked to draw her ideal place to live in an art class once and, years later, she found her drawing, looked out the window and realized she was living in the place she had drawn. But that’s the monumental magic trick of destiny; it’s happening while you don’t know it. Unless you have a fondness for art.
13 thoughts on “Art and your Destiny”
This is excellent! It would be music for me. I forwarded this to Mary and Nancy…It is just as easy to do that as to tell them you have posted something!
Thanks, Mary Ann. I really enjoyed writing this one. Thanks for sharing too.
Love this! I need to read The Goldfinch! Would’ve been music for me but for reasons, I’m not sure why, I’ve abandoned that years back. Love tile work and pottery though. Thank you for this blog! Hope all is well!
Now I need to hear your story, Karen.
Thank you so much for pointing me toward your blog! Ever since I read The Goldfinch, I’ve been working on remembering how the magic of art entered my life, and how it helped to shape who I’ve become. I grew up in Northern Virginia and so had relatively easy access to galleries and museums. I remember as a small child looking through a book we had at home of paintings in the National Gallery. One thrilled and terrified me–a 15th century painting of a somber woman holding what looked to me like a pair of pliers. When I found the actual painting in the gallery, I was lost–and found the rest of the gallery! I need to go back and find that painting again.
Magic! Pure magic! I just had to hop over to your blog to read this after our conversation today. I love this piece you wrote. I think for me art and my destiny have to do with yarn!
That would be an interesting connection. When you find it, let me know, Corina. I love these kind of stories.
LOTS to consider here, as I was frequently dragged through museums as a child, and now seek those very places out when I travel.
I would love to know what you discover when you go over all the art you saw as a child. I bet there’s a clue in there.
I loved reading this and the whole process of the tiles, colors, patterns, etc., and how you created all the pieces for the pottery store. My art form is music. I related to music I’ve sung that brings me to tears as it takes me to my heart and core as I go back to the past that’s held in my heart. I LOVE music for that reason. Thanks for helping me see another layer of myself, my art & music!
All those small beautiful pieces. And then the one big beautiful picture. I love how it all connects.
I came across your post when I was looking for images related to David Greig the grocers. I read your lovely piece with much interest. I am writing a book about Streatham which used to have a David Greig’s shop (still there but well disguised). I was really interested in the interior of a David Greig shop which you include in your post – the only such picture I have come across. Do you by any chance remember where it comes from?
Not exactly but I could try to track that down for you. I do remember googling images of David Greig’s and that’s what started me towards finding all the photos you see in this post. Thanks for reading. Good luck with your book. That’s exciting!