Piece written by Jonathan Van Patten of JVP Wares
There’s no one who has been left unaffected by covid-19. For the ceramics world, our physical sense of community - especially studios - has been split asunder. But while we’re all away from each other, we’re still in this together.
This week we caught up with the makers of SUPPLY UNICA, and we asked them to share: What are you doing to cultivate your creative practice?
Here's Jonathan's full response.
JVP - I entered 2020 with a sense of renewed optimism after a dark year or so of grief, but there was light on the other side. I felt renewed, relocated to Los Angeles in January, started working on new ceramic vessels for the first time in a year, and began making a new home for myself. Then about a month ago, after on a couple months into this new life chapter, just when spring was promising bloom, Covid19 swept through the world, taking with it roughly 114,000+ lives worldwide, shutting down the economy and now we are all mired in a deep sense of chaos. In the midst of this unexpected time, I’m asking myself some questions. What am I doing and why? What have I been trying to prove all these years? What’s important? Who do I wish I could hug and kiss?
If you’re anything like me, you want to meet your personal, creative, and professional goals head on, and mark off those little victories in hopes they’ll add up to success someday. But what does success mean if it’s nothing more than an abstraction in your mind, like a carrot dangling on a string? And what the hell do you do when that thing you’ve been chasing suddenly gets altered because the world has changed? What do you do when you find yourself in your apartment all alone day after day and you’re not sure what’s going to happen? What do you do when you begin to see just how corrupt the people in power truly are? What do you do when you realize you have no real control over much of anything other than how you spend your time, and even then, it’s a stretch.
Life will bring great chaos when you are least expecting it, and we can respond in one of two ways depending on the moment; we either hide or we face it. These two choices are not a one time decision, they are daily, hourly, sometimes minute by minute decision to hide, or face it. Both options are there simultaneously. To stay in the dark, or let in the light. It’s not Either/Or, it’s Both/And. Deep down, it’s a choice. I know that may be difficult to accept, but it’s true. I’ve learned this in my grief, sorrow and loss over the past couple years. There is darkness and light. Chaos and Order. Yin and Yang. Death and Rebirth. The tree can not reach up to the sky without its roots going deep into the dark soil.
All of the sudden, we’re feeling all these feelings that perhaps have not been given their proper attention. We need to allow this difficult experience to show us what has been hiding within our inner beings, begging for our individual and collective attention. Perhaps there are things coming up within which you’ve not fully grieved. Perhaps you’re broken hearted, or you lost your job, or you’re simply afraid and anxious. Maybe you’re the loneliest you’ve ever fucking felt and that life you’ve been working so damn hard for has vanished out of the blue and you don’t know which way is up. Or maybe it’s all of the above. Well, I get it. I understand pain and grief.
A couple years ago, I lost someone to suicide. I got the call and then my life changed forever. I grieved and wandered and wept off and on for roughly two years. And I know I will grieve again, but I’ve also come to see first hand that you can not find inner healing without allowing the waves of tears and sadness and loss to move through your body. Pain and Healing are one in the same. Suffering comes from fighting the pain and holding on to it. The painful time can lead to more pain by ignoring and resisting it. Or it can lead to healing and peace by way of surrendering and trusting, which coincides with the difficultly and pain while letting it out. Maybe you think this is an extreme example, but I’m telling you this because many of you are in difficult places you’ve never experienced before and on top of all the bullshit outside your front door, there’s this terrible battle happening within you which you were not at all prepared to fight.
Well guess what, You don’t have to fight. You can sit and Be the Human Being you Are. Right here and right now.
You’re going to get through this. We are going to get through this. You’re a human being and Your life has value.
What if we could look ourselves in the mirror and say with full conviction, “I’m a human being God Damn It! And my life has Value!” (From the film “Network”), in spite of the fact millions of us do not feel valued or seen.
Our Government is failing its people and we all know it. And yet underneath all the political bullshit and nightly news reports vomiting forth endless modes of information and misinformation without context, causing us to wonder which way is up, there is a deeper, heavier and more substantial place within our very beings which power and corruption can not have unless you give it to them. No matter what faith you may or may not profess, no matter what form of religion, spirituality, or philosophy you may connect with, all their archetypal imagery and nomenclature have one thing in common, they remind us we are part of something much bigger than our individual and subjective understandings can fully comprehend. It’s the mystery of Life. We are human beings. The center that lies within is deeper than any political ideology, state, or country. The center within our very beings is so close within us we often do not even see it or feel it because it’s been buried under years of breakups, failure, trauma, pain and loss.
The Truth with a capital T, is that no matter what you believe or don’t believe, whether by accident or by design, since the dawn time from the first moment of the Big Bang, throughout billions of years of cosmic chaos and order, amalgamation and re-amalgamation, death and rebirth, with all its sound and fury, This Universe and whatever is responsible for it has conspired in favor of creating you. Right Here and Right Now.
We need to learn to love ourselves and one another. To love is not to hide, but to say yes to the moment. It is terrifying, but you will grow when you face the darkness. Pain and loss are as real as your body, blood and bones. If you can learn to allow the difficult feelings, they will move through you like waves, which clear away the old and make way for new growth within and without, but first, some of the old things must die away. After a forest fire, all that dead wood is now gone, and you always see brand new green sprouting up from the ground because the earth has been cleansed and nourished. We are part of that Earth.
The Change this world so desperately needs will not happen by its people seeking to control our exterior circumstances by fighting and bickering with one another over political dogma, but will come when humanity allows change to occur from the inside out. One by One, like buds on a tree in spring.
So what am I doing to cultivate my creative practice?
I’m allowing myself to weep when necessary, and laugh as well. I’ve slowed down because things will speed up again. I’m asking myself what I need to let go of, so I can make room for something new and unexpected to come into my life, even though I can not see it right now. I’m seeking to take care of myself to the best of my ability within these present circumstances.
We can go through this difficult time kicking and screaming, or we can lean in and trust that the Universe has our back, even if the fucking government, news conglomerates, and billion dollar corporations don’t. This spiritual and emotional work ain’t no woo-woo bullshit. It’s real and difficult, and it’s necessary; it makes you stronger and wiser from the inside out. The shell of the seed, our individual and subjective understanding must crack and break open, so the growth can begin taking root within the dark soil of your inner being, blooming up and out into the exterior world. But before the sprouting, there is a time when the seed is simply deep down in the dark soil, yearning for the light. It’s necessary time leading to breakthrough. Your greenery is coming.
Stay here and trust. Do the work you can do and let go of the bullshit. Drink some water. Take a walk. Say hello to the birds and the flowers. Pet a cat and give a dog a bone. Listen to new music and old. Read books. Eat vegetables. Take a hot shower. Rest.
We will emerge on the other side.
C.G. Jung said, “Modern people do not find God because they do not look low enough.”
It’s all right down here, inside you and across from you in all the other beautiful people.
Your body is One with the Everything. Literally. What we’ve been desperately seeking will be found within.
Whatever seeds you have, plant them in the garden of your interior life. They will grow if you water them.
You’re already One with Everything.
- JVP -
SUPPLY UNICA: Follow Jonathan on Instagram at @jvp_wares for more.