Monday, May 18, 2009

The Hand That Feeds

The assignment: Create a piece of flatware based on the work of an artist who inspires you.
The inspiration artist: Lee Bontecou

I'm not really a flatware design kind of girl. When I think of artist designed flatware I think of very artsy pretty and functional pieces. I think of forming and forging and shaping metal in a highly skilled way that really shows off what the artist has achieved as a metalsmith. I think this is what my instructor had in mind when she assigned this project as the final project of the semester.

When I chose Lee Bontecou as my artist, I had just become familiar with her work and was excited at how it so spoke to my own artistic style. I wasn't thinking of how I might translate this to a fork, knife, or spoon. I was only thinking "omg ~ I want to do that!". Lee's works are typically of humongous wall sculpture proportions. The scale I needed to work in was somewhat smaller.

I wasn't thinking of deeper meanings or letting this piece tell a story. I was simply thinking of how little time I had to complete it and how the current events of my life were making my capacity for planning anything beyond the next 5 minutes an impossibility. I sketched a few things out but had no idea how to proceed beyond that. Life was really consuming my thoughts, my time, my energy, my all. I felt I had nothing left to give, let alone the creative capacity to fulfill this assignment.

How do I even begin to share? I guess I can begin by telling you about this piece and the way that it created itself through my hands as I kept vigil at my studio table.

The stones set in copper represent me and my son - the larger, I believe is howlite, represents me. Symbolically placed to show my desire to protect him, to cover him, in spite of the fact that he is an adult, to show that no matter how old he is I will always care for him. His stone, some sort of shell, represents the eye. He is an extremely intelligent and gifted young man. Hungry to know more about whatever grabs his interest, always learning, reading voraciously into the night, always looking at the world with a desire to know more.

The frame has been created from steel rebar wire and soldered to form the "spoon" representational of the womb. End paper from an antique bible and black canvas salvaged from another book cover have been waxed in encaustic and stretched along the frame to create the "skin".

He has had an up and down life, this first born child of mine. So full of promise. So bright. So energetic. So full of potential. So broken and full of pain. So many times he would be set on a course of success only to have something go wrong - an obstacle that only he could see. A rupture. And things would again steer off course and take him into a darkness, like some sort of black hole wanting to suck away at all that he had built. I could never understand it. Why this young man, so loved, so charismatic, so full of potential could not stay on track. What type of demon was pursuing him? What bondage held him in this vicious cycle? I blamed myself, having been so young when I had him. Having made so many poor decisions as I tried to grow up just barely a step ahead of him.

The pale of the areas of the "skin" represent times when life was going well, potential was being met, the plans were coming together. The black areas are the interruptions, the detours, the inexplicable destruction, the force that pulled him off track. Like pieces of two different puzzles.

We were in one of those seasons where things were going well. I was excited to see him moving forward with his life. I told others how proud I was, how much I had seen him grow, how I felt that he had finally overcome the issues that had continuously brought him down in the past. By summer I fully expected to see him achieve some goals he had set for himself. But then it all began to unravel again. And it was worse, so much worse then I had ever seen. And I could not understand what was going on and I begged God one day. Begged. B-E-G-G-E-D!


And that afternoon my phone rang. It was my daughter, who is in her first year of medical school. "Mom, we just studied mental illness, I think he has Bipolar".

I can still hear her voice, still feel the shift of the earth as the pieces fit together. Still feel the way my heart skipped in response to what I knew was the truth, the answer.

Does a mother ever cease to carry her children in her womb? To feel their pain, to share their joys, their sorrows, their hopes? To want to protect them, to have dreams for them? Does she ever go to sleep at night that they aren't somewhere in her mind? There is a connection between mother and child. An invisible thread that reaches all the way back to the beginning of time.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This thread comes from the very heart of God, the one who wove us together, he and I, this precious adult-child of mine. It cannot be broken by these trials, it can only be strengthened. It is a bond that comes from being the hands that have fed him, clothed him, loved him, prayed over him in a way only a mother can.

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."


  1. Crystal,
    This is such a beautiful piece, because you shared the story, and what each section represents,
    It touched my heart in so many ways,
    God is always there, sometimes we do not understand at the time, but he is always in control and he wrote our lifes and he will bring all of you through. My prayers will be with you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Crystal...what a touching post and lovely, lovely piece. You chose the perfect scripture...a frame...knit together...exactly like your utensil. Funny, this scripture just came up in a meeting I was in the other day. The comment was made about what attention to detail, time and care is put into something that's knit together. He really does have a "mother's" love for us.

  3. Crystal...I have misplaced - lost your email address - i would love to email you.

    Your words, as always, elegeant. What you share touches the heart, the soul. Your piece is beautiful.

    thinking of you and your family.