The Gift of Slowness
With summer comes the invitation for play, light and warmth. It is a season of exuberant hope and engages the mind, soul and body to slow down.
It is an honor that this space places such value to unhurried living, and I feel even more fortunate to work with makers who embody this timeworn practice. Ceramic artists Conrad and Dina started working with clay with no prior experience but soon after became obsessed with the work and was intrigued with mankind's relationship with this ancient material -- a practice that has been passed on from generations to generations. Of The Earth was born out of a desire to refine and live out a lifestyle that had slowness at the forefront.
The following is an interview with Conrad and Dina about their work and the affects of slowing down. Interwoven are some excerpts from the novel "Slowness", the first novel Czech writer Milan Kundera has written in French, a surprisingly short story which occurs over a single night, looked at with detail and attention. Attention, being synonymous and mostly (only) appears when one takes his time.
“There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. A man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time. In existential mathematics that experience takes the form of two basic equations: The degree of slowness is directly proportional to the intensity of memory; the degree of speed is directly proportional to the intensity of forgetting.”
― Milan Kundera, Slowness
How has working with an ancient material (clay) affected the way you move and live?
Working with clay has impacted us profoundly, it has deepened our connection with the earth and with ourselves, leading us to become a more authentic version of ourselves. We've learned that pottery is a true co-creation with the earth, and is not just a creation of ours alone. Working with clay has influenced us to live a life of slowness and patience. We must honour the rhythms and cycles of nature, instead of trying to force things. As we've worked with clay, there has been a primordial sense of being we've felt as we've worked. This experience has caused us to become fascinated with ancient cultures and their ways of living, which in turn has made us question how we want to live our lives today.
In what ways moving at a slower pace has brought you ease and joy? In what ways has it brought you dis-ease and sadness?
Moving at a slower pace almost feels wrong at the start. We've been brought up in North America to be going non stop, and we seem to get uncomfortable if we slow down. It's just the pace of society, and by slowing down we're naturally "going against the grain". That feeling is hard at first, and most people don't understand, so we tend to isolate ourselves to "escape" from those feelings. There are, however, small pockets in North America that move slower, and we intentionally place ourselves into those environments. We believe the pace of North America is too fast, so as soon as we slow to a more natural pace, we find clarity and contentment. These feelings seem to breed creativity, and allow us to live a more fulfilling life.
“Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared? Ah, where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars? Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature? There is a Czech proverb that describes their easy indolence by a metaphor: “They are gazing at God’s windows.” A person gazing at God’s windows is not bored; he is happy. In our world, indolence has turned into having nothing to do, which is a completely different thing: a person with nothing to do is frustrated, bored, is constantly searching for the activity he lacks.”
― Milan Kundera, Slowness
What are things this practice (of slowing down) has shown you?
Years of this practice has shown us that living slowly is our natural state and way of being. Although the pursuit of slow living may be difficult at times, we've learned that it is essential to our holistic well being.