Having been in the same Workaway place for about 6 weeks now, I’ve gotten more comfortable with the people and the routine.

We all know how we fool ourselves by verbalising a story, feeling or belief to comfort ourselves (and others), even if said story were fictitious. I’d like to think I’ve become more critical of my thoughts and emotions, that is, I’ve become more sensitive in spotting the times when I’m not being true to myself.

Anyhow, my point is, even after careful rational deliberation and psychological introspection, I feel I really am enjoying myself. The work is interesting and enjoyable and the people are great! I’ve surprised myself and stayed on longer than I had expected to.

Every Monday is special for us at Buckeye Hill. We eat together and work together (more so than other days). Ayelet cooks us up a wonderful organic (and mostly vegetarian) Israeli-style breakfast and lunch. The freshness and flavours are new to my palate. Though sharing a lot with Mediterranean cuisine, I can’t say I’ve ever tried Israeli food. But I really like it.

The work on Monday’s is usually restricted to the property: building this, repairing that, cleaning out the shed, organizing things, etc. On one such faithful Monday, instead of working in-house, we all went to a famous local potter’s place — Mattie Leeds’ Studio.

I admit, I’d never heard of him before, and probably neither have you. But my hosts said he’s quite well-known and successful in the pottery world. And let me tell ya, he is insanely good at what he does. He’s been making pots of all sizes for the last 50 years. I was shocked when he said that, because he only looked about 50. The field trip to his home and studio was to serve as education and inspiration, and it did plenty of both. It fuelled our hearts and imaginations with beauty and balls. The balls to deviate from the norm and to create art for the love of it. 

He had hundreds of intricately painted clay pots, several dozens of large clay sculptures, a few different-sized kilns for firing them up. He also had a very impressive rock-face chimney, artistic arches, pretty pathways and wonderful walls made from a range of material that boggles the mind: brass instruments, plates, pots, glass, steel, neon lights, et al.

A large tilted pot with a thousand things sticking out of it, defying gravity under a neon Chopsuey sign.

 

He shared some insights on his experiences and difficulties of the trade. One such trial he overcame in the beginning was the cracking of many of his larger pots. Thickness, kiln temperature (he mentioned a figure near 1500℉, about 800℃) and the clay all played parts in ensuring a pot’s durability or frailty. I’m sure being a successful potter is way more complex than what he said in those few minutes. He said his work was like a meditation to him. He gets up early in the morning everyday to make pots as he listens to tranquil classical music.

Sculpted Arch with a peak at the chimney at the back

 

Seeing the amazing house and work, it’s all a very inspiring form of self-expression. And frankly, the visit left me very curious and excited to try making some clay pots of my own one day.

 

Funky tiles for creative flooring in Mattie’s yard.

 

Seemingly precariously placed die, ball and chain.

 

Piping runs through parts of the sculpture to give the illusion that an endless amount of water is coming from the pot for this jacuzzi and for the outdoor shower (not shown).

Mattie works and lives in his home in Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz County, California.

Visit his site to see more of his work: https://mattieleeds.com/

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