I had absolutely no idea what to do or where to start my ex voto project, so what better way to go forward other than lock myself away in the ceramic studio of Peters Valley Craft Center in Layton, NJ during the mud season of March? It was closed to the public for the season but available for private residencies. Usually crawling with activity, in March it's pretty desolate, and getting a cup of coffee or a bagel means jumping in the car and driving for 20 minutes and forget about cell service. One must be resourceful, one must be intrepid, one must be crazy, and a little desperate to jump start a series. It was perfect and I loved it.
It was during Lent, the season of fasting, prayer and giving alms. I figured being cut off from civilization would help me not cheat on my fasting (wrong), give me the prayers I needed to start (meh) and sharing my lunch with a stray cat (sorry Bruce and Kulvinder) would count for giving alms (a stretch.) To add to the fun I fell off my horse the week before and couldn't bend one knee. I was like Quasimodo lurching around the studio, hunching over the work table sidled up to a space heater drinking tea and procrastinating any little way I could.
Another reason I picked Peters Valley was it was within daily commuting distance. I still needed to teach and fire for my students, be a wife, and be available for my grandmother who was almost 105. My entire adult life to that point revolved around being available and ministering to elderly family members, my studio and artistic pursuits taking a back seat. This residency was my first attempt since getting my masters to put my art first.
On the first day, the first token I made said "God Speed Grandma" on the front and "let Daddy come and get you" on the back. At that point visiting her every weekend was a heartache, like watching a candle burn down to the wick. She had long ago stopped speaking or recognizing me. I kept telling her it was ok to go if she wanted to, telling her to please set me free from this obligation, telling her the food was better in heaven.
She died that afternoon.