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Friday Slide Show: Santa Barbara Ceramics Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

24 June 2022

In 2010 we took some product shots of a set of ceramics for the 256-page Santa Barbara Ceramic Design: Art Pottery from America's Riviera by Terry Gerratana. Santa Barbara Ceramic Design was the name of a pottery studio inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement that flourished at the end of the last century.

In the early 1980s our brother Bill worked there decorating the pottery with floral paintings. Gerrantana wanted to include his work in her book but she needed some photos. So we packed up some gear and drove over to the family home where Bill was visiting with the goods.

With no publisher specifications to work from, we shot Raw+JPEG and delivered the Nikon D300 images without editing them. The camera files were sent directly to the publisher.

Santa Barbara Ceramic Design had an almost paint-by-numbers set of patterns but would pay for original designs the staff developed. So there was a lot of innovation and invention going on all the time.

Something can be remembered only
if it ends.

Some of the designers' most spectacular work, in fact, were the one-of-a-kind pieces they made for their family members, as Gerrantana points out.

That's what we photographed. Two vases and a mug Bill painted for our grandmother, who had a penchant for Asian florals. For many years she was a keypunch operator with an FCC radiotelephone license for the Red Cross, responding to every disaster of the 1950s. There she had made friends with a Japanese woman who cultivated her interest in the culture.

She loved Bill's work. And she displayed it as prominently in her home as if it were the Pietá in the Vatican. If not more so.

We remembered our long-ago photographs this week because we had to move one of his vases when we were clearing the space around the fireplace for the chimney sweep at the ancestral home where they are now displayed. A friend had noticed the chimney cap had rusted away and we engaged a firm to replace and rebuild the rotted wooden housing around the chimney. And while they were at it, sweep the chimney.

The vase displayed by the fireplace is the smaller of the two. As we moved it to a spot safe from the work, we remembered taking those images 12 years ago of ceramics decorated 38 years ago.

"Una storia non dura che nelle cenere," the poet Montale wrote In Piccolo Testamento. History lives on only in ashes. Which is to say that without ashes there is no history. Something can be remembered only if it ends.

And there by the fireplace, the place of ashes, we remembered years gone by, ambitions that were not vain, beauty that graced the quotidian whose brief spark, as the poet says, was not that of match.

So we dug up these images to share with you. Fill Bill's vases with your own aspirations. And before they wither, may they perfume your days.

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