How wonderful it would be, thought I, to have tea with strangers at bus stops and stuff. I haven't made it to a bus stop yet, but I distributed many little cups of tea to people through this project in various situations.
My aim was to make 100 tea cups. I did it all in one weekend, hitting about 85 cups. I built them all in a kind of industrial wabi-sabi kinda way. I spent 25 hours pinching clay in 3 days, getting myself sick in the process. It would be no surprise if my project-induced sickness was the first domino to fall in this last months epidemic.
All the cups were relatively small but varied in size. They have a lava rock type of glaze on them which, combined with their organic shape, makes them very tactile and intimate objects.
I gave cups to some people so they could become part of their daily matters. One person wrote, "This cup said gotchu and caught a scalding drop in its rough bottom skin. Yet it cradled my lips ergonomically with its ultimately smooth upper skin. Its scale exactly fit my rounded palm, radiating comfortable life-like warmth, and my nose to mouth distance, reminding me of its I-gotchu-ness by tapping me on the nose as I sipped my last sips. Its shape was stout, reassuring, steady, and strong. Quality over quantity, it said, what you do, do well."
Another set of cups stayed in my home and was used in various situations; conversations over tea, breakfast outside, an excuse to hang out longer, and tea parties around a bon fire to name a few. The cups were actively fused with daily life.
A third group was used in UF's pop-up culture event. I set up a table with two other ceramicists, Bridget Fairbanks and Eddie Dominguez, and we served people tea in my cups using Bridget's pitchers.
After these teacups were used in these situations, I fired s¥mbols onto them. The symbols are words with all the letters stacked on top of each other. Over time, they will build up on the cups and become as much a part of the piece as the stamps on asian scroll paintings.
Critique was just as much a part of this process. It was a performance to add to the list of where the teacups have interacted and a chance to learn about social interaction with tea as the hook to make a certain type of intimate experience happen.
I began this project with zen intentions, but found myself to be like a mad hatter who's trying to figure out how being peaceful works. I was inspired by the tea ceremony and all its life reverie. Why not revere the simplicity of life all the time? This escalated into just another complexity in the seriocomic drama of life. A spiritual tea-go.
I learned a little bit about being social. I learned a little bit about how people interact with these little intimate forms. I learned a little more about my own ridiculous tendencies. But it all felt somehow forced... nothing was real to me. Stuff happened. Life happened. I'm uninterested though. I have expectations as to how things should be, how I want them. I habitually see myself as separate from the world, a Thing with expectations, even the expectation of nonexpectation. Oh circular thought, my love for you will be my own doom.
I find it interesting how far removed from original intentions things can become, especially when it comes to the pursuit of Truth. The more we try to understand it or experience it, the more it baffles us and the more separate we become from it. It has turned into an idea we have to fit ourselves and our experience into.
This was the essence of what happened in my final performance, a maniacal and uncomfortable presence of what not to do in the pursuit of Truth.