Monday, August 9, 2010

Of Making, Chickens, and a failed Galette des Rois

Personal Statement

Making things has been a passion of mine ever since I began putting spiders in jars as a little kid.  I went from making simple terrariums to building models in architecture school and, finally, a chicken coop last spring to house my five hens.  It is in the making that I become engrossed, lose time, and forget to eat dinner.  It is in the making that I learn how things are put together, how form and function work together, and why things look a certain way.

Not everything I have made has been a success, however.  My mother tells the story about the galette des rois I began to bake the night before and 'All Kings Day' celebration in French class.  I hastily whipped the egg whites, inserted the good-luck coin to be discovered by a classmate, and put the cake in the oven.  I watched as the cake not only failed to rise but seemed to flatten into a thick, dense pancake.  Needless to say, I did not take my galette to class.

As I grew older and more patient, I took on more ambitious projects in print-making, ceramics, knitting, sewing and I even auditioned for 'Project Runway.'  I rarely use patterns because I find the creative process to be my path to discovery.

Like binding a book or sewing a dress, learning about other cultures is a path to discovery as well, with a result not always clear from the start.  The year I lived in France as an exchange student in high school led me to explore other French-speaking countries and learn other languages.  The first time I went to Morocco it was a mystery to me why the streets of the old cities were bare and unkempt when the interior of people's homes were filled with color and care.  I learned that because they were nomads, Arabs built cities to feel safe and secure in the endless desert landscapes; also, Muslims do not wish to flaunt their wealth on the exterior of their homes but contain it in their interior and spiritual lives.

It was in Morocco I fell in love with the poetry of the Arabic language, discovering the multiple meanings behind words each with its own root and nuance.  In the four months I spent there I merely skimmed the surface of the country's cultural richness, which is why I have dreamed of going back to Morocco ever since.

My five hens are thriving in my backyard chicken coop, each producing an egg nearly every day.  They sit on their perches, lay in an old chest of drawers, and sleep in the windowsill so they can look out.  Making their living space was, for me, a small feat, my first 'built project.'  What began as an idea turned into drawings and finally took the shape of 2x4's, plywood and chicken wire.  The process of discovery begins again every day when I check for new eggs and think about what to make for dinner.

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