Monday, August 16, 2010

aunt bonnie

dragon: bonnie mcgough
photo: jetheriot

(When I visited England in July, I spent a day with Andrew's Aunt Bonnie. She is an artist with multiple talents including drawing, fashion design and, most recently, sculpting with clay. She is writing a book about some of the techniques she has discovered working with clay. She asked me to write an introduction for the book and so I interviewed her and wrote this short piece.)

When we were children, my sisters and I would spend every summer in the mountains of Bulgaria. Small and pale, we stood out among the strong and sun-tanned village kids who lived there. They called us "the little white ones". The adults would work all day in the fields and, left to our own devices, we would wander through the mountains to play. The air was thick with the fragrance of pine and wild geranium. The water in the rivers we swam in was clear and clean enough to drink. When we got hungry, we would feast on the strawberries, blueberries and hazelnuts that grew wild in the forest. I am sure there were wild animal around – bears, wolves, boars – but I can't remember ever being afraid. In my memory of those summers, it was always sunny and pleasant.

One day, a village kid, I think her name was Maria, took us to a spot where she said the earth was good. It must have been pure kaolin there. We would sit around and make miniature things from this clay. I remember making a kitchen and a living room, little tables, little chairs, little bowls and little plates. The Rhodopi mountains were rich with quartz you could peel off in layers thin enough to see through and I would mix shiny bits of it into my creations. That was the first time I fell in love with clay.

Decades later, living in England, I owned a boutique selling dresses and accessories. On a whim, I decided to stock the shop with Fimo. When I opened up a package of it and pressed it between my fingers, I was not prepared for the flood of memories of my childhood in the mountains. I have been using it ever since. My hope in writing this book is to share what I have learned. May it inspire you to be playful, mischievous and curious, to be touched by the same sense of wonder I knew when I was a child.