A Bowlful of Metaphor

While we were hiking back to our car after our souvenir shopping expedition in Eagle River last week, my mother and I were caught in the rain.

We ducked into a small gallery about half a block from the beaten tourist path.  Inside were wooden shelves full of pine needle baskets and pottery and paper-crafted fairy dolls and wildlife paintings, small leather moose and all sorts of etcetera from local artists. In the far corner, a man was sanding a hand-carved sign in a small, half-walled workshop, and the place smelled like fresh pine sawdust.

Mom and I explored, while the owner and her summer resident friend caught up with each others’ lives and also the lives of the two extremely well-groomed dogs bouncing in the back room behind a baby gate.

I half-listened as I wandered over to look over at an artfully jumbled display shelf, not really looking for anything in particular—I’d already bagged my duck for the day—when a small, three-footed bowl of rich, shining colors glowed at me from behind a series of hand-painted, cat-themed ceramic tiles.

The bowl was rough edged and textured and shiny and brilliant, and I picked it up and turned it around in my hands, calling my mother over to show her this marvelous thing that I’d found.

The gallery owner told me that the artist rolls out slabs of clay and stamps them with different things—metal pieces, flowers, grasses, pebbled linoleum—then tears off pieces of the textured clay to fashion things, before painting each torn piece a different color, with thin borders of darker or lighter hues separating them.

There were several bowls scattered around the room, each one clearly from the same artist, but so different from each other.

My bowl—because it was, no question—has a keyhole in the bottom, as if it’s waiting to be unlocked.

I found the whole concept remarkably familiar and undeniably metaphorical.

Even before I tried to take a photo of it.

The first couple of drafts shots didn’t go well.  At all.  But I learned from them and adjusted, and tried different settings and angles.

I’ve come close, but as it stands, I can capture the individual characters colors, but not that luminous shine:

  Patcwork Bowl 2

Or if I can get the  glow, the individual colors go muddy:


And nothing I’ve tried so far comes close to showing why this piece of patchwork pottery caught my attention and hasn’t let go.

My husband gave me tips, which I gratefully accepted, and Jane kindly offered to take the picture for me, though I gently turned her down—it’s my story bowl, and I want to get it right, if I can.

It’s entirely possible that I won’t be able to do it justice.

But if I keep trying, maybe I’ll come just close enough for others to see what I see.

Which is remarkably familiar, too.