It is true, my folks took my family on excursions to the beach and we would stop in Florence, Oregon—a nice town—however, I’m referring to THE original Florence in Italy. I’ve wanted to visit Italy for years and years. In fact, I could almost swim across to Sicily, or maybe take a rowboat. I even took Italian lessons and watched the RAI (TV), which is easily picked up in Tunisia. The problem was that when it came to exchanging Tunisian dinars for Italian Lira or later Euros, I found that little remained in my pocket. And for many years, Tunisia had tight restrictions on the amount of currency that could be taken out of the country. Considering prices in Italy, I could have visited for a day and a half or two.
Then, I was invited to participate in a conference near Florence (in Montecatini) a year ago. Dream come true! Of course, I managed to work in several days of sightseeing in Florence and this is what marked me most: It is difficult to draw a line between Italian artists and artisans for they seem to converge and the result is a way of life that touches everybody. Everyday objects are bestowed with a magic that takes them beyond utilitarian. Take, for example, the humble door knocker.
Or the doors.
Then there are the floors.
Having done a good deal of house painting recently, I stand in awe of Italian house painters of old.
And, of course, there are the fountains.
Window shopping reaches new heights--just over the top!
I do not profess to know Italy well, so the idea that artistry—or the artistic—permeates Italian life (including Italian cuisine) is strictly my opinion. But I didn’t have one mediocre meal while I visited and I felt a sort of joy and appreciation when sitting down at a table or entering a cathedral or museum. It all blends together to create a pleasing whole. And don’t get me started on the gelato!
This brings me to THE vase. It sat in the window of a small antique store in the old part of Florence. It beckoned to me, but the shop was closed. I could only admire from a distance.
This is the object I carry in my mind. Lovely, elegant, sophisticated, luminous, graceful, colorful, tasteful, perfect craftsmanship, a work of art in a humble vase.
So, when I returned home and I decided that my garden would become one of my canvases, I began making mosaic flower pots, not only for utility’s sake or to provide visual delight, but to create and possess beautiful objects. And always, the memory of THE vase reminds me that artistic inspiration and fine craftsmanship enhance each other.