Yesterday, a watch stopped. Hers.
This was the second time this kind of thing had happened. That is, a watch stopping. That time, his.
Both times, in the middle of a superb conversation that, really, slowed into a moment. Conversations with people that I had just met. That day, or a few days prior. Really good sweeping topics that spanned the universe, life and death, birth, stillness, space, poetry, philosophy, conspiracy theories (me), art, skepticism of nonsense (them). And you could feel it, just there. The stopping. Then, it was literal. How does this kind of thing happen?
Let me try to feel my way towards the ‘how,’ even if I don’t get there. With words, of course. Words are a sort of paint for me, the paintings I’ve been looking at this week reminding me to play with them a bit, to see where the layers might take us.
Yes, the ‘something’ that happened, let us call it ‘!*’, whatever ‘!*’ was, well, I know it happened, it happened because I felt it, not just in the way that you feel when you are feeling a shift in the breeze, or that kind of thing, but because you are sensing something inwardly shifting, which is reflecting something larger, very large indeed, and you know that the quantum bits and pieces are at play, or that strings are vibrating, or that there are nine other dimensions (nine? More?) that are resonating in the same hum, or a different one, or a new color, and that, taken together, these things are beginning to make a new pattern. Of course the intricacies of the design are beyond our capacity to ‘note,’ and NOTEWORTHINESS being the theme this week-and-a-half here in London, of course I have to philosophize a bit about it, here and there, when I find the urgency of the moment in which that frequency will suggest, in a gentle but firm whisper, ‘Yes, now.’
The reflections begin
I HAVE BEEN QUITE LUCKY, this trip. I have met some of the most outstanding people I’ve ever encountered in my life. And all at once. At ‘N’. The most incredible thing happens when we assemble, just sit together, talk together. [Not like in the round, in the workshoppy-style that SN, remarking on DK’s style of making circles, had once called ‘circle time.’ Was it 2014? It’s stuck since then. Circle time. Yes, we love circle time here, of course we do, but you just can’t always go into the circle space because sometimes you are meeting in public spaces and it just would be weird.] I mean, you might get kicked out. In this instance, for ‘N’ London: NOTEWORTHINESS, we convened at the National Theatre. While on the one hand I had made the good acquaintanceship of some of the people working there, who noticed that I was greeting people who didn’t know one another and would be later pointing the latecomers towards our table, asking, ‘Are you here for the blind date?’, and letting them know where I was, yes, while they were on my team, you could say, in making it happen that people whose paths might never have crossed were, at ‘N’, designed to intersect in one moment, well, I don’t think they would’ve been cool with it if we did some circling up and talking about things like I like to do sometimes at these sorts of conversation installations. I don’t know. Maybe it would have been okay at the Royal Academy (pictured), whose purple velvety cushioning made me want to curl up and read a book, any book, by, say, J. Krishnamurti (thank you JB), all evening and through the night and the next day, but then again, circle time is special. I don’t know. I think you have to just feel like it, in that moment. Like so very many things, that are good. That are noteworthy, even. But then, ‘Royal’ doesn’t start with an ‘N’, so that’s it, it’s a no-go, right there. Plus, ‘Royal?’ Who wants to make it all hoity-toity? Not me.
THERE IS SO MUCH more to say about ‘N’ and the things that preceded it, the conversations that revolved around that strong central gravitational point, ‘What’s remarkable? Why do we think so?’ I’m going to be sharing more about it slowly, through the eZine, but also, with guests who took part in ‘N’ London this time. There’s stuff to report to past guests, of ‘N’ in Bangkok and Phnom Penh, and the one to happen next, in Copenhagen. I’m getting to it. All of it. But I need some time.
Writing, today. In pencil, on the keypad. In my head. Writing for the sake of writing. Writing for the self. This is the time that won’t come back. This is the time to sit, quietly, and make a poem or two, and let the flow come as it does, when and exactly and only when it’s ready. These are the moments, aren’t they?, when time stops.
LEGACIES ARE MADE AND BUILT based on the learnings we can articulate clearly, and share. Dialogue makes us gather our ideas and respond to those of others, too. Perspectives can shift and whole rooms of internal awareness can open, if we allow ourselves room to reflect. It’s why I am always taking pictures like this, I think. I like to make the space for zooming into quiet. Processing ‘N’, which just happened on Wednesday here in London. No pictures. No social media. Just quiet space, to feel what it was, and reflect. Quietly, alone.
NEXT. There are a few things coming together for 2017 for members of our online community, S. P. A. C. E. A different kind of thing than me posting blog entries, much more interactive: both real-life spacemaking events in cities like San Francisco and Bangkok, and conversation forums in online ‘rooms.’ The big idea is much like the 16N experience: connecting us to new and different others, making space for us to reflect and better tune in to our own selves, our own hoped-for legacy, whether we’re conscious of what it is or just open to ambling our way towards something bigger than simply existing day-to-day. I came to London a year ago to see George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman. In which similar questions of existence and purpose and meaning popped up. I can tell you where all this is going, but only if you are interest in hearing more. Are you? If yes, leave me a note.
THE FIRST TIME I CAME TO PHNOM PENH, there was a feeling that anything could happen. This was in March, 2014. This was a time in my life that I needed to be in a place where you could try things, make it up, see what happened. Because so much of what I had imagined was going to work simply hadn’t been doing that. I was on the verge of quitting it all. Giving up on the ‘Anything is Possible’ dream that we started Design Kompany with as a limited liability company in Seattle in 2005.
This was the hope, back then: You could do anything you wanted, if you just had a clear picture of what it was. Somehow, the universe would deliver. Regardless of background or income or societal class, the clarity of intent was the key.
A few days after moving into a flat on Street 63, something that I never imagined I would do, I organized a conversation salon called ORIGIN.
What is fromness? Having turned this question about in my heart for the one year on the road in India, Nepal, Viet Nam, Thailand, and Laos, I very much wanted to know.
Having a burning question in your heart is one of the best ways to host a salon.
So I did.
ORIGIN was hosted in an ‘unconference’ format, which I think is a new idea here in Phnom Penh and I’d only first ever heard of it a few years prior at a barcamp in Seattle. You propose a theme, a topic that is, that could be openly interpreted. Here’s how it works. You share about it as a date-time-place and just see who comes. When guests arrive, you host the space in such a way as to invite those who are there to share what they hope to hear, and in this way, a natural and organically formed agenda is devised. On the spot. It’s very nice. We talk together in small circles, only with those who are also interested in exploring the topics that we are. In this way, we make good on our time. We establish real connections. People at ORIGIN, pictured below, seemed to really engage with this style of gathering with new and different others.
Here’s a pic:
ONE OF THE GREATEST things I have learned about living in Cambodia is just how open to trying new things that the Cambodian people are. How could I possibly have gotten to know people here, who are from here, when I’d only just arrived myself? Yet there were a lot of people who were local to Phnom Penh who got word of this and came. I really admired and appreciated that.
A lot of times you just throw an idea ‘out there’ and see if it ‘has legs,’ which is just designspeak for, ‘Does anyone really want this?’
In my three years since ORIGIN, I have tried out a lot of other kinds of topics, to mixed reviews and response. I have also gone to other countries and gathered people in different cities, just to see if maybe it was about the place. It’s not. It’s about the people. Whoever comes is the right people, it says in the Open Space manual. Whatever happens is exactly the only thing that could have.
What does this mean?
I will be hosting ORIGIN again.
It will be DK’s last conversation salon in Phnom Penh.
The date is set for 21 April.
The location will be on Street 334 in BKK1.
There are tickets on sale at this website.
You can also send me a note through the form at the end of this page and ask me how to join with Wing or cash. I’m so excited about ORIGIN 2017, but I’m also more experienced now in salonmaking. The people who come are the right people when you have the clarity of intent communicated very articulately. Are you interested in the topic of ‘fromness?’ Then ORIGIN is for you. What it is not is a place to go if you are otherwise bored, or if no other options come up for you on the day. That is why there are tickets, and they are only available for advance bookings. I’m looking forward to it.
Will we see you there?
‘How did it go…?’
‘Really, really well. I am so… Inspired. To keep doing this sort of thing. You know, I keep on wondering if anyone’s reading or listening or anything and then, wham! It hits, like a juggernaut, heh, I just wanted to say “juggernaut.”‘
*smiles all around*
‘But you know? There was this moment of suddenly waking up, like as if, as if the whole thing about collecting scraps of Camus and Poincare’s stuff and bits and pieces over time, how many years now?–‘
‘–yeah, twenty!, jeez, anyway, I think it has been worth it. Taking it on this journey. Around the world, and all that. I have the handful of books, the books that when I hold them give me a feeling—that’s what I was talking about with—‘
‘Hey. I uh, Um… Can you, um?’
‘Oh, oh. Yeah, sorry. What time is it? Lunch in a few? And you have to get across town for that meeting, okay okay. But the point is, the point is!, that you know what? There isn’t really a point, but the thing I learned is that there is definitely room for this kind of thing. Space making and stuff. Getting it up and organized, the dialogue rooms, even if they’re borrowed spaces, that’s actually part of it, I think the charm of the special focus and thematic arrangement, as if a composition is coming together. I’m not musical, but I like it, and no, I love it, when there’s something fusing in a way that feels right. Feels good. Quality is what you like, remember? Remember that big ol’ book that had that in it? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? That you wanted me to read in the 1990s? And I was like, duh, no way, that’s a book about some dude and a road trip, and you know, later, way later, it was way more than that… It was about seeking things that are more interesting and intriguing and feel good.’
‘So yeah. I’m gonna keep going.’
‘You’re gonna keep making conversation salons? But I thought you were done with real life ones. That you were going to do the online things, like the magazine and the workshops?’
‘Oh, well, yeah. I have had such a great time with the conversations in S. P. A. C. E., and so, I got distracted. I stopped really doing anything with people in person anymore. And I guess not since Denmark, not since showing up and running about to see what might happen have I made any efforts in that dimension because, because, well, I think Phnom Penh is a bit slow on this sort of thing. I mean, not Phnom Penh… The expat scene here… The people I’m talking to, or I think I’m talking to. I think they’re a little bit too by-the-book, you know? Like, no scruffiness, no out of the box, nothing out of the extraordinary. So in form are they with the status quo that something that purports to buck the status quo—as simple and quiet as a salon is, in raising questions about how we are existing and the beliefs we buy wholesale without critique–well, I think it’s just… Sort of… Um. Odd to them.’
‘I mean, the whole thing is just too esoteric, or at least, that’s what I thought. But I’m reading a lot online and going through all these bits and notes like I said and yeah, I’m seeing the commonalities. The big thinkers in physics and psychology and even the motivated business leadership they talk about doing the thing you’re the Best in the World at, and I think… I think.. It’s starting to be clear, after two DECADES, that there is… There HAS to be a way to enjoy the engagements that come together in offline, non-agenda, common space in semi-public rooms where people converge from very disparate backgrounds and origins in order to discuss that which touches our core, as humans. As human beings, you know? Not cogs in wheels in some system that’s been designed by people who just want us to Work so Hard that we are constantly Busy (with what? For who? To what end? And how is it adding to our own long-term value-making, by the way?) for some reason. It’s gig to gig with people here, contract to contract. They’re not even trying, some of ’em. The quality—the competency—is dodgy, mate. It really is. It’s disappointing that people who aren’t interested in aspiring to be more, but just complacent with the paycheck and the pretense of being busy with something (though they can’t succinctly tell you what that something is), I mean… It’s… Gobsmacking.’
‘Don’t worry. I won’t write it up or anything. I won’t make a big noise about how disappointed I am when people aren’t, uh, very good… at seeing there’s way the hell more out there to do and be and seeking is part of it and it’s a choice…Whew, sounds harsh, but I think my people know already that there’s the rest, out there, way closer than anyone lets on… I need to gather them into these salons, so they can relax and engage and talk—I think that’s my Thing, you know? What I have to do, what DK is about… What Making Space can be for people is pretty… What’s the word… I guess you just have to experience it… Plus it could evolve, you know? It could… Be something. I can see myself taking this to Seattle and Portland—I think they’d remember DK from the past, perhaps? It’s not like there’s SUCH a big populace there and heck, why not just reconnect with a few… And…
‘Well, hey. I just promise I won’t complain. I’ll just…’
‘Keep going with the salons. Or whatever comes up next. Maybe they’ll catch on, in time, when there are enough people embittered with a system that takes and takes and doesn’t give them anything in return that makes their lives feel good. Feeling good, right? I mean, quality, right? I mean, yeah! I’m gonna do it.’
‘Do it. I’ve gotta—‘
‘Yeah, okay. Say hi to C.’
‘But dude, what’s that thing about yarn and mangoes?’
‘Oh, right. Remember when you said when we were younger that if you want to start knitting, and you were in Japan, and you were serious, you don’t just start with a set of needles, right, you have to kinda start from the very VERY beginning. Washing yarn.’
*laughing* ‘I didn’t say that. Did I? Someone else must’ve.’
‘No. You did.’
‘And when it comes to drawing, like those ones from The Cloud place the other day that I made, when I followed some people over there? Yeah, that time. I mean, live drawing isn’t something you just go in cold and start, the same way you don’t just go in and start knitting without knowing the yarn through and through, right? So I said, I said to people there, if you want to draw the human figure, I recommend starting with something else. And they said, “What?” And I said, maybe cause it’s the season, I said, “Draw mangoes.”‘ –JP
A CONVERSATION TODAY with North Carolina ceramics artist and a personal friend, Ronan Kyle Peterson. Here is what he had to say about our theme this month, amongst a few other things regarding work, cycles, and practice.
DK: I’ve seen your work evolve quite a bit in the last decade. What is it you are up to?
RKP: Essentially, I am dealing with effects of agents of growth and decay and how these agents shape and embellish the surfaces of stones and the skins of trees. Employing an earthy background palette stretched across textured but quieter surfaces, I wanted to upset that quiet earthiness with intense splashes of vibrant color, patterns, and glossy surfaces not commonly associated with tree bark or the rough surfaces of rocks amidst fallen leaves.
DK: Tell us your thoughts on ‘work’—what is it, who is it for, and why does it matter?
RKP: ‘Work’ noun-wise, would be the pots that I make to sell. Which references my ‘job’ or the verb ‘work’ that I do to make a living. The work for me is learning about color, how colors work together, how color and pattern changes perception of form, and how color pattern and texture can affect a person’s mood or perception of a pot.
The work that interests me, or the energizing part, is figuring out forms for functional purposes—cups and mugs for drinking, bowls for eating or serving from—and decorations or surface treatments that complement and complete the form.
DK: Why do you do what you do?
RKP: I make… because it makes me happy, fulfills a need, keeps me searching. I’m just infinitely blessed that others, customers, want to buy my pots and are interested for the most part in what, the work, that I am doing. It doesn’t matter in a larger context, but it does matter to me, because in the doing I am happy.
DK: Is that where the magic is? In the doing?
RKP: For me, the magic is in the making or the doing. Talking, wishing, and hoping do not get the job done. The magic is in the doing.
DK: A lot of people say they wish they had more time be an artist, make music, travel, write a book, and so on. What you would say to them?
RKP: I guess I would say, you just have to make it happen. And it will not just happen. A lot of times there has to be a sacrifice of something else: sleep, long meals, vegging out, tv, income, family time, socializing… Making time or sacrificing something else to make time seems to be hard for some people, because they are energized and content through socializing, etc. For me, working, making new work, exploring new forms, colors, combinations, that is what energizes me.
DK: What does rhythm mean to you?
RKP: Rhythm recently is not contained in one working cycle. Work is started, but not finished until later, spilling into the next cycle, and the next. It used to be frustrating, but I have found that through continued experimentation with form, color, and pattern, that ideas tend to belong aside one another: they are a continuation of thoughts I build on. I guess this speaks to an overall rhythm? I’m making a healthy offering of cups and mugs each cycle, but I have more larger pieces waiting to be finished. Now it is kind of nice to think more about the larger pieces, figure out different decorations and surface approaches that fit better, better than my original plan. I’ve started reglazing older pieces, [and] making different lids for jars. Revisiting sometimes resolves some deficiencies of the pieces. I have a general set of forms, but I’m trying out new things, mostly decoration-wise, every cycle.
DK: Imagine two young people, maybe teens, who are thinking about artistic pursuits having a conversation, perhaps at a museum somewhere, and they know virtually nothing of the real experiences of people like you who have reached some sort of acceptance, it appears, in the methods you are using to make and do and share. What would you tell them?
RKP: I would say be patient. It takes a lot of time, and failing and observing, to figure things out. One thing that I try to keep in the forefront of my mind is how much help and support I have: I’ve worked for many potters with different styles and aesthetics, I have in-laws who let me use some of their space for a studio, I have galleries who work with me and for the most part allow me to bring them work that I choose to make. Growing that network, that support system, I think, is pretty crucial. And being patient, humble, and open to comment, advice and opportunities.