Back when CSArt Ottawa was just a seed of an idea, potter Susie Osler approached me (Megan) with a concept: what about a poetry-pottery collaboration between her and poet Chris Turnbull, revolving around ideas of landscape, environment, farming, and meeting each other around the dinner table?
I immediately fell in love with the idea. Having seen the beauty of Susie’s work at The General Fine Craft, Art & Design in Almonte, I knew that her work was concerned with the natural world in ways that felt intimate and poignant. Both she and Chris have spearheaded projects that have created new ways of working with landscape in Ottawa: Susie with Fieldwork, an annual installation art project in a Maberly field, and Chris with rout/e, a project of planting poems in outdoor spaces to interact with the environment. The collaboration of poetry and pottery was unusual. But at the same time, the desire to see how art and the natural world can intermingle is a line through both Susie and Chris’ work, and has led to surprising aesthetic similarities.
And so, over a year and a half after the original idea, Water~Table was presented to CSArt subscribers last Saturday. Subscribers were invited to interact with each other, with pottery pieces by Susie, and with words and images provided by Chris. Together we considered the water table, last year’s drought in Ottawa and the surrounding region, and how water sustains us. We explored the symbolism of water, the ebb and flow and storms of life, its presence at birth. Together we ate delicious food provided by Aubin Farm, a farm in nearby Spencerville that works on a ‘no waste, closed loop system’, and drank from the cups Susie had made for each of us. Each cup was impressed with a water word that Susie sourced from subscribers before the event, and marked with a water line to remind us of the ever-fluctuating water table.
Continuing with this season’s theme of audience interaction, Chris led the subscribers in creating their own visual poetry. It’s a risk when you ask a group of people to create something together, and we didn’t know how this would go over. But we continue to discover that our subscribers are in this to explore new things. When the evening came to a close, it was hard to tear them away from the creative process.
Each subscriber took home a Susie Osler cup, and received their pieces from Mark B. Stephenson’s ‘M’. Soon Chris will digitize subscribers’ visual poetry to share as well. As subscribers went happily on their ways, I was so thankful that this beautiful event had finally come to fruition.
Thank you to Impact Hub Ottawa for hosting the event, to Aubin Farm for catering, to Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. for providing beer and pouring staff, to the wonderful CSArt Advisory Committee, and, as always, to our subscribers. See you on May 28th, for our last 2016-2017 Season event!