Thursday, February 28, 2013


Today is the last day of February.  I spent yesterday out of town, at a funeral, my first since Papatya's.  I wasn't sure how I'd feel about it, if it would send me reeling back into deep grief.  It helped that the experiences were completely dissimilar- a very southern religious service, complete with the creamy casserole church luncheon afterward.  I was grateful that his funeral felt like a homecoming rather than tragic unexplained loss.

This month I made two cranes.  One broke as I pulled it, seemingly perfect, from the kiln.  This crane is left, intended for a close friend, hung with leather cording from her jewelry supply kit. 

I can not make 10 cranes a month.  If I only make 2 a month, do I have 500 months left in my life? Will I be making pottery when I'm 79?  Is this a project I will complete? Does it matter if I do or if I don't?  Is part of the point seeing past the futility?

February, 2013, I have made 26 cranes.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

10: January

Clearly, this is a process-oriented project.  2 cranes of the 10 are intact.  The rest shattered as they fired.  It is heartbreaking, and my grief has been heavy these past weeks.  Fitting that they should meet.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

january, 2013

It was my goal to make 10 porcelain cranes during January, but it was hard for me to do so.  I'll do it tomorrow, I thought, day after day after day.  Finally, on the 31st of January, I sat down in the studio, folded 10 out of the rainbow of origami paper I'd bought before Christmas, and began coating them with porcelain.  My last batch was too fragile- several broke in the kiln- crumbling to ash-like bits as the paper burned away.  I cut pieces of wire to hold the cranes upright as they dried, impaled the paper birds through their center so they'd be able to hang once fired, and coated three of them.  Today I coated three more.  It's been quiet, almost meditative.  Painting one side of the paper bird, making sure I coat all of the nooks and crannies, letting it dry, then coating the other side. 

My studio is my my attic "bonus" space with a single, large, west-facing window.  At 4pm it was filled with light, so much so that I forgot to turn on the switch as I ascended the stairs.  When I leaned down to take this photo, I was struck by the beauty of the light.  Even though I know it was just the sun beginning its slow setting, it felt like more, like she was with me.  Sometimes I feel like she's very near; it is rare that I don't.  The overwhelming sadness is easing past, except when the phone rings and her brother is on the line, telling me he's be in town, or it is her partner, asking about something she always took care of that he can't figure out.  She's never gone, quite.  Absent physically, but still here.

These 10 cranes make 24 out of 1000.  This is going to be a long process.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

from January 13

A friend who is a filmmaker has asked me to document the cranes: the making and sending out, and how it makes me remember my friend in whose memory I am making them.  I hesitate to talk about how things make me feel.  I want to present a sunny picture of my life and work and these don't make me feel sunny in the least.  Truth be told, they make me very, very sad, but the sadness is part of working through my grief, and the making and sending out is also part of that.  Suicide is the most difficult thing I've ever been through.  It seems more difficult than my parents' divorce, which was horrific, but at least both of my parents are still here and I can talk to them.  I still do talk to Papatya.  Sometimes I shout at her.  Sometimes I ask her questions.  I tell her that I miss her and I wish shed found another way out of what was bothering her.  Occasionally I feel like she talks back to me.  Sometimes this is good; sometimes it is more than I can process.

Since October I have made 14 cranes.  I gave 5 of the first to family members.  They were hand-built, thin slabs of porcelain I put together.  Then I folded paper cranes and coated them with porcelain slip.  They are lovely and fragile; too fragile.  Six broke.  I need to make them heartier, but their fragility also says something of this process of grief and recovery.  Experience and refining and testing and taking tentative steps.   Of the three surviving porcelain paper cranes, I have one that I'm keeping, one ready to give, and I gave one away the first of January.  Giving the cranes to her family was something that I needed to do for them and for myself.  I didn't quite realize what I was working up to- the monumental memorial project of 1000 cranes to be distributed near and far, given to friends who knew her and hung in places she loved for others to discover.  Now that I know what I'm doing, my feelings have changed somewhat.  Sending them away will be easy.  Hanging them will be slightly more difficult.  Giving them to people who knew and loved her reduces me to tears.

Early in January I saw my friend Elizabeth.  She has been a mentor to me- I've joked that I want to be Elizabeth when I "grow up".  (If I'm not grown up at 38, I wonder, when will I be?)  She has encouraged my work in pottery and photography, my spiritual development, my parenting and marriage.  She moved recently to take care of her parents, and I've missed her tremendously.  Elizabeth was also a part of my knitting group.  In a letter after Papatya's death she wrote "knitting. . .is the perfect way to quietly and peacefully be with my father.  That enjoyment is a great gift that both you and Papatya have given to me and for which I will always be grateful."  It felt right to me that she be the first person, outside of Papatya's family, to receive a crane.

I had not seen Elizabeth since Papatya's death.  Giving this to her, though I so wanted her to have it and to tell her about the project, was overwhelming.  She reminded me that Papatya's life and spirit was one of creativity and encouragement, and that this fit well her legacy.  I hope, as I move through this project, that I will take on her creativity and encouragement and will transform my grief into joy in remembering her life.

Friday, February 1, 2013


My dear friend Papatya committed suicide in October, 2012.
All deaths are horrible but suicide leaves so many questions open, so much blame.
She was unhappy, but none of us knew the extent to which she suffered, or that she was taking antidepressants, or that she took herself off of them.
She supported her friends so much that she didn't take enough care of herself.

After she died, I began making origami-esque cranes out of porcelain slabs.  I gave two to her mother and sister, one to her mother in law.  I kept one.  
I folded dozens out of paper the first week after her death, coated them in porcelain, and fired them.  They are fragile, like our lives.
We've all heard the story of the thousand cranes and how they represent hopes for peace.  My cranes give me a bit of hope- hope to make more, hope to make them better, hope to make them a memorial for her.  I don't believe that I will ever sell these- they're too close, especially right now.