three generation cooking
It was a normal spring day, I was in my mother's town, a little corner of Las Villuercas where my past, my present and hopefully my future are rooted. Suddenly, she comes to tell me something that for another could have only been a curiosity: my aunt, her older sister, had told her that she had a piece of clay from my grandfather . I mean well, mud. That is, it was not ceramic because it was not fired. Such a thing seemed a prodigy because that there was such a pot, a fine and delicate clay vase, held until the fifteenth year since his death, is something totally improbable. But the wonder did not end there. When checking the signature, next to which he always wrote the date, we knew that this work was much older. Specifically, he was the same age as me, 33 years old, both of us only a few months apart. It was unrepeatable and almost miraculous news. Even more so when I learned from my aunt that this piece had endured several changes, humidity, the Extremaduran summer and her care, that without being aware of the difference between clay and ceramic, she had been cleaning it with a cloth wet for years. The proof of the history of that piece is written on its surface.
Fig. 1. Footprints from cleaning the mud with a wet cloth.
Somehow, I immediately knew that something special had to be done with it. And what could be more special than finishing that unfinished piece to help it finally fulfill its destiny of being a ceramic? In other words, it occurred to me that I —who was only a newborn when it was created at the 1989 International Tourism Fair— could sew that piece that my paternal grandfather gave to my maternal aunt without being able to imagine such a twist of fate. But of course, as transcendent as I am, I thought that simply cooking it would not have given it the dignity that such an almost divine whim deserved. Because it's not just finding an object created by a very dear family member: it's the fact of having inherited their profession and their love for everything that this profession encompasses and that such a responsibility falls into your hands. And the firings for the potters have something mystical, no matter how many you have done throughout your life. Each one is special. But this one had to be especially so.
Fig. 2. Vessels drying for roasting and firing.
I asked my father and his brother, my uncle, for my grandfather's birthday. This cooking was for him, a moment that would serve to remember him, and I thought that celebrating his day like this would be up to the task. Surely other people more unrelated to the trade do not see the symbolism of cooking in honor of your potter grandfather a piece of his without finishing the day of his birth, but to me it seemed not only a good idea, but almost a duty. In a way, I think we would all like our descendants —and those around us in general— to continue our legacy, in their own way, for all those works that we left unfinished in life.
Fig. 3. My grandfather, my father and I in an edition of FITUR from the 90s.
It seemed to me that for such an occasion I should invite their descendants with whom I deal the most and trust, in case they wanted to share the moment. Finally my father, my mother and I participated. But then another totally unexpected prodigy happened and added magic to the events. Somehow and without my knowing its origin, my aunt found another unfinished piece of clay, this time from my father, who turned out to be four years younger than the previous one. However, this one did have some broken part. Given this, the day before cooking my father fixed it, 29 years after starting it. It is also very special to finish unfinished business of your own, as he did.
Fig. 4. Figure of my father from 1993 with repaired arm and flower.
Thus we arrive on June 12 to celebrate his legacy with a humble cooking. The kiln where we would fire it would be mine: a kiln that I made four years ago according to how other potters in Ireland taught me. An oven that, according to them, would only be used for a special type of Japanese-inspired firing —called “ raku ”—, but that in this time, based on innumerable mistakes, I had learned to use it to carry out the conventional firing that my pieces need. It is rightly said that the potter's character is tempered by his oven. That oven, so personal and artisan, of cooking by hand, where one never has the total guarantee of knowing exactly what will come out of it —because sometimes they don't even come out, but instead merge with it—, it was going to be, because I don't have another , the one who, in his bosom and with my guide, finished my grandfather's work.
Fig. 5. Pieces placed in the oven.
Needless to say, my aunt gave me her permission to fire the pieces. But I knew the risk I was running in my oven. Me too. And that's why I wanted to arrange it so that security was maximum. Some pieces that I made the day before also entered this cooking process —blessed wave of heat depending on what for—. Resulting that, the result of who knows if chance or superior reasons, pieces of three generations of a family of potters were gathered there. It coincided that it was Sunday, Holy Trinity Day, which according to most Christian churches is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I found out about this because lately I have been accompanying my mother to mass for reasons that one day I will reveal. The fact is that that day we cooked, with fire, the father and the son. And it seemed symbolic to me. But, despite so much symbolism, would that be a guarantee that everything would work out?
Fig. 6. View of the interior of the oven in full firing.
We did the cooking in the afternoon when the temperatures began to drop. All he had to do was keep an eye on the cooking, regulating the flow of heat so that it went at such a rate that nothing exploded or deformed, directing the fire so that it did not violently affect any area that could harm the invaluable parts. Thus, while I controlled the temperature curve and oriented the burner, I was inspired to write a sonnet, as conceptual as I get, about this trade and the passage of time, thinking about my grandfather, my father, me... Months ago that I couldn't find the inspiration, that I neither like it nor can I force it, and it was very gratifying to see that those verses came to me with a reason like this.
Fig. 7. My father and I showing the results.
All went well. Mud entered and ceramics and poetry came out. Although my grandfather has not been here for a long time, my parents and I enjoyed that weekend together. Those who are no longer there, beyond the symbolic, whether with flowers, food or, in my case, with cooking, cannot be honored or thanked for the time we had together and what they bequeathed to us. However, to the living we can. let's take advantage With all this symbolism I wanted to combine both things, here and there. Because the mud is the excuse, the important thing is the people it unites.
Figures 1-7. Self-made photographs.