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 novel.
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.
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
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.