December Wishes

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So many things happening - so much going on. And I mean that in a good way. I don’t know why it works like this, but it seems that nothing can happen for a long time, and then suddenly you’re swamped. But it’s good, too, because it shows that hope and positive energy inevitably manifest new and interesting opportunities.

First of all, I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday season. This is the time of year which is fraught with different emotions and stresses. Life throws curve balls at us regardless of what time of year it is. I’ve decided to take as much stress out of the entire process as possible, limiting decorating and “preparing” to only a few pieces of greenery and treasured decorations, and letting the rest go. We’ve both been working at full tilt on our businesses, and my arms and wrists are feeling the result of too much throwing and centering. So it’s time for a break and quiet time to rest and heal… and create designs for 2019.

The Black forest birds / cups

The Black forest birds / cups

There are these birds, Black Forest Birds and Piemonte Peeps which you’ll be seeing a lot of in 2019! Plates, mugs, cups, tea bag holders, espresso cups, egg cups, you name it, I’ll be making them. Every single one is different, because they are all hand painted onto stoneware, which make each one completely unique. I’ll be going into production as soon as I return from Christmas holidays, and working on a few big projects with them.


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to have and to hold

I made quite a few wedding gifts this past year, and I’ll be starting a bridal registry, To Have and To Hold in 2019. There will be several choices for the registry. First, 22 carat gold trimmed personalized cake plates will be the hallmark of the collection. These can be personalized for the spouse and spouse.

But other pieces will be offered as well - bowls, cups, candle holders… pieces that are very individual and will make keepsakes and treasures for life. I’ll be stocking the registry with new designs in February and March. But if you would like, contact me sooner if you would like to discuss something in particular for that special couple.


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fire and food artisan workshop

June 7th through 12th,

Alla Madonna del Piatto, Assisi, Umbria, Italy

#foodandfire

I’m also so so excited about an fantastic workshop from June 7-12, 2019 that I am leading with the amazing Letizia Mattiacci of Alla Madonna del Piatto Agristurismo and Cooking School in hills overlooking the pilgrimage city of Assisi, Italy. The name of the workshop is The Fire and Food Artisan Workshop and it will include pit firing ceramics out in the olive grove, visiting all kinds of unique and very special artisans (from potters to weavers to glass makers to beer), meditational walking in the Woodlands of St. Francis of Assisi, strolling in medieval villages, and of course a cooking class - plus a visit to a bio-dynamic winery that works with horses instead of tractors. It will be very special. All the information can be found here. We still have space available, and would love if you could join us.

UPDATE: As of December 21st, we have a few places available. Thank you from my heart to those who have signed up. This would make the most perfect Christmas surprise for a special person - someone who is creative and loves Italy.


upcoming book

I’ve been working behind the scenes on a book which I hope will come out mid 2019 - about women who have taken the leap and moved out of their home country to make lives and find their dreams in foreign lands. I’ve spoken to (and am still speaking to) strong, brilliant women across the globe. The insights of these women are phenomenal, heart warming, sometimes heart breaking, but full of resolve and honesty. It’s truly a privilege to be able to write this book. I can’t wait to share their stories, advice and thoughts with you.


We’ll be heading to Italy for the holidays and to work on the Tiny House. We still have work to do! But it’s coming along really nicely and I look forward to showing it to you when it’s to the point that I’m happy with it!


So, my friends, here’s to 2019 and to you. The days of 2018 have been just about been written and are part of the past. I hope, more than anything, that 2019 is kind to you and brings you contentment and health and love. That your loved ones are safe and happy. That struggle is minimal. That your energy is good and that your spirit is strong.

I look forward to bringing you more this year than I have in a very long time. Style, design, insight, depth, renovations (!), ceramics, art, writing….it is bound to be a busy year.

But for today, I wish you peace and love and cozy days ahead of the year’s end.

And so much love.

Diana

Foraging for Love

I've just returned from foraging berries in the Black Forest. 

After spending the morning designing and creating dozens of dessert plates, some of which are a special order for a wedding present going to New York City,  I was ready to get into my place of worship - the woods.  I had checked out the ripeness of the wild blackberries yesterday while Rocky and I did our favorite route through the forest. I couldn't believe my eyes. This year's crop is one I've never seen the likes of - all of this extremely warm weather combined with a wet spring has created mountains of blackberry brambles that line every walking path.  It's such a joy to walk through the Black Forest with its velvet mossy ground and deep black green shade branches breaking up the late afternoon sun.  Today, I intentionally didn't bring my camera. I wanted to focus my attention on picking berries, luxuriating in having the whole forest just for myself. My hands took quite a scraping, but it was well worth it. 

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My thoughts harkened back to a special place in Pennsylvania, where my foraging skills were developed.  A few miles in the hills above the borough of Milford, Pennsylvania, there's a beautiful place called Twin Lakes. It's made up of two lakes that aren't exactly twins; one lake is larger than the other.  When I was a young girl, our father would take us in late summer to an open area in the woods just before the lakes.  It doesn't exist anymore; there's a school there now. But back then it was a wild blueberry field. Dad would cut milk containers, the plastic kind with handle, and cut out a large opening. He'd strap the carton to our waists with belts and we'd pick half-gallon after half-gallon of wild blueberries. The payoff for those blue fingertips and sore arms was that we'd enjoy Mom's blueberry pies all winter long.

I took a drive up to Twin Lakes on my recent trip to the states. It was a short excursion down memory lane, one I felt compelled to take. The beauty of the place hasn't diminished at all, but I do wish those blueberry bushes were still there. 

The time by myself in the forest today gave me pause to think about the plates I'm designing. In my mind's eye I imagined creating a plate upon which would be a piece of the lightest sponge cake soaked with wild blackberry syrup.  I could see how it should look, and how the bride would open her gift and find the recipe along with the plates. I could picture the entire thing as I collected blackberry after blackberry.   

My work as a potter and writer in intrinsically connected to nature. I gather my strength from the forest, from the river, from lakes and streams. Those places give me the creative energy I need to move forward and do my best work. 

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This is my favorite time of year for so many reasons. Nature is pumping out the best is has to offer, in abundance and in shades of color so beautiful and rich. I love cutting the late-blooming nasturtium blossoms and leaves and mixing them into our salads. 

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In Italy, gardens are pumping out the sweetest, juiciest tomatoes you can imagine.  Here in Germany, my garden is full of kale and fennel, and the plum trees are gracing the ground, with more fruit than we can possibly turn into jam. 

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In a few weeks, we'll be on our way to Italy to enjoy the last true days of summer in our tiny house there.

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My Wild Life

I've been away from home for a long time, five weeks to be exact.  It was the first time I actually spent summer in the states in twenty-four years.  Going there was for the most difficult reason of all - my mother's health.  It's the call every expat fears - the one that beckons you home because someone you love is ill.  The gamut of emotions I went through covered the spectrum. It was easy and joyful at times and deeply painful at others.  By the time I left, my sister and I had managed to clear out her very large house, prepare it for sale, review the options for mom's long term care and come to some sort of peace with the whole situation.  I celebrated my sixtieth birthday there, with family and friends. 

I missed my husband terribly, but coming home to him and my amazing dog was wonderful.  More wonderful than I can express. 

One thing that surprised me over there was how easy it is to live in a place where the language spoken is your first language.  I've beem out of that particular comfort zone for so long I actually forgot that living in a foreign country is infinitely more complicated both culturally and linguistically.

I saw old friends, some intentionally, some by chance, and some through tragedy.  It was good for my heart to retouch relationships that were so far in the past.  I made new friends, interesting people who live creative lives. It all  had the effect of reminding me of who I am at the root, and helped me to rekindle my own sense of myself - older now, on the other side of many of life's dramas and physical changes, but still, deep inside, a bit wild.  Because I was somewhat of a wild child. To put it mildly.

That wild child lives in me still. 

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Now the question becomes - how do I best communicate with her?  How do I allow her to inform me, teach me?  I suffer from anxiety and depression, but she's not depressed or scared. She invites life to present itself and walks through with a red dress and a magenta scarf and her hair in the wind. 

I found her, as I knew I would, on the bank of the river where she's been forever.  She knows the lesson of how the river is always the same but never the same.  It's as it is but it's constantly changing. Just like her. 

I love her. 

She gardens, she cooks with spices, she makes pots. She knocks down walls and makes linen curtains and furniture out of pieces of old wood.  She knows more than she ever lets on. She wears what she wants and some days her makeup is dramatic.  She tells people to fuck off when it's appropriate to do so.  She hugs with meaning.  She gives of herself freely.  She invites people in.  She loves thoroughly.  

She is me.  My work in life is to embrace her, because in embracing her, I am embracing my wild life, the one I am meant to live.  

If I ignore her - turn away from her - the result is fear and darkness.  Because I separate and isolate - from myself.  

So going there - and coming back - was a gift I needed to give not only to my mother and my family, but to myself.

To find her.  And to remember to live my wild life.  

 

 

 

The Garden Revisited

We've started work on our garden.  So far, we've had about two days of really good weather, and still, the weeds have gotten such a head start on us that it's hard to believe.   Michael turned a small plot of land to plant a kitchen garden of sorts - a few zucchini and cucumber plants, maybe a tomato plant or two.  Some parsley and other herbs.  Normally I wouldn't even attempt tomatoes here in Germany without a greenhouse.  But this corner is warm and right up against the house.  

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Having a garden is a luxury.  Working a garden is payment for that luxury.  Coaxing plants to come alive - and wishing others away.  I'm having my arguments right now with one of the most invasive weeds I know - stinging nettles.  This plant has taken over a large section of our property. This year my plan is to try and keep two areas clear of it - our new vegetable patch and and area of the yard that butts up to my pottery studio.  I've spent days digging up the root systems, knowing full well I can't get all of them.  But I will keep trying.  

We have a small hill which is covered with stinging nettles.  I'm leaving this hill for this year because we can't do everything.  I have a sort of love/hate relationship with stinging nettles.  Brennessel in German, and the romantic ortica in Italian.  In Italy, stinging nettles are widely used as an alternative to spinach.  They are wildly tasty when they are simply blanched and sauteed in a bit of garlic and olive oil.  The trick is to pick them, wearing gloves, when the leaves are young.  A quick blanching removes the stingers completely.  I'll be putting up a recipe soon, because in a few weeks the nettles on the hill will be mature enough to make ravioli d'ortica  - nettle ravioli.  One of my very favorite ravioli recipes.  

The tiniest of tiny stinging nettles.  In a few weeks, maybe less,  they'll be big enough to harvest.  Tasty little bastards. 

The tiniest of tiny stinging nettles.  In a few weeks, maybe less,  they'll be big enough to harvest.  Tasty little bastards. 

But for now I'm getting rid of winter's wrath and trying to bring some semblance of order to the garden so that we can enjoy it.  We have old stone walls that are starting to tumble in places, but I push the stones back so that they stay another season.  Gardening is always trying to work with and fight nature at the same time.  

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More than the garden itself, I'm so taken in by the garden within the garden - the small things that are so precious and sweet in the spring as  plants stretch as far as they can to feel the sun's warming rays.  I dig, my hands raw, my cuticles already peeling from days and days of working with clay in the studio - but I try to untangle nettle roots from baby plants trying to survive and find the most beautiful things in the process. 

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I struggle a lot.  With creativity and moving forward and what the future will look like.  Gardening helps me stay focused on the present.  While sitting a good while in the dirt yesterday, I soaked in the warm sunshine and allowed my thoughts to wander.  I tried to save as much of the wild garlic as I could, but some tiny bulbs came out on their own, and I carefully put them aside for dinner. 

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Later on, I chopped up some tomatoes (still greenhouse Italian ones - can't wait for the real thing!) and mushrooms, and a bit of actual garlic, along with this wild garlic.  I made up a batch of fresh pasta and dinner was sorted. 

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I met a friend as I was gardening today.  She's a lovely woman with five children, and she's very ill.  I was happy to see her working in her garden, which is adjacent to mine.  We talked about how these old houses capture our imagination and we wrestle with making them work for us.  She told me how happy she was to have found her house and garden for whatever time she has to enjoy them. Those few moments were the most important to me of all.  Those soul moments - where it's truly human to human - are part of our garden.  Our internal garden, the one we must tend to as we care for our own humanity.  

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This outward spring and garden are a reflection of the inward garden. - Rumi

Soon it will be time to see what kind of chaos awaits us in our Italian garden!  Until then, I'll be frantically busy in my studio, making and glazing.  So more about that soon... and those nettle ravioli.

Happy Weekend, everyone!  

 

 

 

 

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Spring's Soft Insistence

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With very little co-operation, spring is forcing itself upon the hemisphere - and  winter is defending itself with a tenacity rarely seen at the beginning of April.  We've just come through the second snow shower of the day, this day of Easter celebrations, and I wonder when I will be able to get my gardening clogs on and really put a dent in the amount of work the garden desperately needs.  

There is no more gratifying work than the garden in the spring; one sits in the knowledge that every small hand motion in the soil will improve the picture of the garden for the whole season.  Seeds sowed carefully will yield herbs and edible flowers.Small plugs of plants for which you have waited for warmer soil to plant take almost immediately as the sun drenches them and water quenches their thirst.  

There are, of course, signs of spring's imminent arrival,  of nature's long-awaited unfurling in delicate hues and textures. 

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I'm biding my time waiting to garden by finishing off work in the pottery studio.  There's so much.  I committed myself to becoming a fully functioning pottery business by the middle of this year.  This means perfecting forms, limiting mistakes and selling.  I have pending orders - but am still working on a disciplined approach to the daily work of potting.  It requires ritual and focus.  

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Finding a rhythm of work and play that is satisfying and sustainable had been a real challenge.  I love the creative process, but i also find it frustrating and elusive. I keep chipping away, though, and every once in a while, the kiln produces pieces I love. 

On the side, my latest book, a good 40,000 words in, is coming along.  It's all about what it takes to move to another country.  I've been interviewing the most interesting people whose stories will be included in the book.  It's due to come out mid-summer, soon after my first pottery show here in Germany.  Busy days ahead.  

Are there any questions you would like to have answered about living abroad?  Leave a comment for me here and I'll be sure to get an answer into the book. 

I hope you enjoy the spring as it unfurls around you.  What do you love most about this time of year?  How is your creative energy?  What's moving you right now in your world?  I would love to hear.  

 

 

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