Sunday, January 07, 2007

A New Definition of "Useful"


Jane Herold is a potter who produces beautiful wood-fired pottery. Everything is made to be used, to become part of someone's everyday life. She's written an article entitled "A New Definition of 'Useful'" that discusses the seeming paradox of carrying on a thousand-year-old tradition into the 21st century, and I think it could easily be used to explain why painting outdoors is useful, too.

At first glance, hand-made pottery (especially wood-fired pottery) and plein-air painting might be dismissed as anachronistic hobbies, but Jane explains that if everyday cups, bowls & dishes are lively enough, each having their own unique character, they make you stop & take notice. Their purpose is to generate caring. You might have all the modern conveniences (?) and yet go through your days without being aware of your surroundings, interactions, feelings, your very life itself.

"Being indifferent, unconscious, unawake is not something that you can turn on and off at will. We must either find ways of living that encourage awareness or face a loss of sensibility that is likely to seep into all areas of our lives."

And painting from life is certainly one of the best ways to encourage awareness.