My first clay studio apron is done for. Look at that threadbare hole with the wood floor peeking through right in the Solar Plexus Chakra!
For that matter, look at the stained and faded rest of it. It used to be as blue as the bottom hem. Looks aren’t all that crucial to me – it’s an apron, after all, and I am more into how it functions – but it cannot do its job now either, and that’s the truth brought home after its last washing. So, I am retiring it to Ragsville, which is actually Fine and Fitting.
In the beginning of my clay work, I did not wear an apron. Too busy. Too cool. When my All-in enthusiasm wrecked a few favorite shirts (Iron oxide wash, I’m lookin’ at YOU!) I found something to strap on in defense: this denim delight. I wore it constantly in the Cabrillo College clay lab for nearly a decade and, like my high school gym clothes, I took it home every weekend to wash.
The demise of this apron got me to examining the other aprons hanging on the back of my studio door. Looks like I will be wearing them more often. And all of them have a story nearly as rich as the one I am letting go of. Here are just a few:
That original blue denim apron is about 15 years old. Thinking it was old and shabby about 10 years ago (hah!), I used some birthday money to buy this overpriced chartreuse fancy thing at a local art supply store. It was too stiff, too thick, too long, too precious. The neck strap was one continuous piece that slid through the sides and became the ties. A nifty conceit, but it kept slip-slidin’ down my body until I pinned and then finally sewed it into place behind those snazzy copper buttons. Still it remained largely unworn. What made it mine was a special day when fellow potter Jasper Marino brought his silk screen into the clay lab and offered to screen print a few of his custom ceramic-based designs on anything we brought him. What an opportunity! It took this apron from stand-offish to MINE and I like it a lot! Plus, with washing, it has softened and become a good friend.
Here’s a gift apron that has seen some pretty good use. It is a shorty, and the binding wrinkles the body, so it feels cheap. But it is a souvenir and features the artwork of the noted Richard Shaw of the UC Berkeley Ceramics Department: a signature trompe l’oeil assemblage person on the wheel, So the graphic is cool, even if the apron has a functional deficit or two.
Another commemorative apron. One I bought for myself, trying to avoid the problems of the green “birthday trophy” apron above. While I adore the colorful logo – the Phoenix speaks to me strongly – and I quest for the romance of Nepenthe in Big Sur, it’s another (made in China) shorty with curling binding and pockets both too high and too deep. Function counts too, people! I choose it over the UCB Richard Shaw apron, though, because of the personal meaning. Funny how particular this all is.
I will diligently work on wearing a hole in this one in the next 15 years. Because it’s not really an apron, it’s a mantle. Made of lovely and colorful Guatemalan cotton, sewn true, supple and strong with no design gimmicks. Just the right length and just the right pockets. I used to enjoy seeing my Cabrillo College mentor Kathryn McBride wearing it. After she died, it eventually found its way to me and for at least a year, it hung decoratively on my studio wall. There was NO WAY I was going to sully that precious artifact with my mundane splashes and brush wipings.
Yet, with the passage of time comes new understanding and often new behaviors. At the beginning of this year, during my annual studio dedication, I spontaneously took that apron off the wall and put it on, intentionally assuming the gentle energies of my mentor. I was completely clear that it was not her, not her talents, not her temperament that came to me, but that the powers I was aligning myself with were in support of me right now and going forward. Maybe it’s the equivalent of Dumbo’s feather, but I don’t care. I can’t say I have worn her apron that much since my assumption, having that old favorite still around and all, but today, its hole told me everything I needed to know about transitions.
–Liz Crain, who once felt one way about things and now feels another.
5 thoughts on “The Apron”
Robyn, I so appreciate your insight into what might serve as a mantle. You just KNOW you would value that pen! I once used a brush that belonged to Daniel Rhodes and just knowing that altered my touch and my sense of the ink and the paper. Had to give it back, though!
Rick, I saw you comments on FB and thank you for understanding clay dust. I bet if you fired those overalls you would have had a bisqued shell of them!
Carolyn, Brilliant idea and I did hang the old apron on the wall. Film at 11.
Shirley, I will never don that apron now without imagining that hug. What a nice thought!
It’s like Kathryn gives you a big hug every time you wear it.
The search for the perfect apron is a legitimate quest. The fact that you have Kathryn’s old apron only adds to the richness of your ceramic experience and I’m glad for you. I think we all yearn for some tangible item of a lost loved one, it’s as if somehow we can still touch them.
Perhaps you should put the Old Denim Friend up on the wall and plunge into the Guatemalan experience.
HI Liz, for some reason I got knocked off this sit but did post to another so put the
two together and there you have it, Very nice blog/post/ thingey… hugs, Rick
Excellent essay, Liz. As a writer, it’s more difficult to assume the mantle of any mentor, but I feel sure that if someone were to gift me with a pen used by one of the writers I admire, I would experience some of the same feelings.
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