Camping: How to fill your soul's "empty well"

I like to think of the soul as a deep well. It drains and it fills, drains and fills.

My well has slowly been draining for the last several months, without being re-filled. There is a drought, and my well has been in serious trouble of drying up entirely.

It just so happened that I had a show in Quebec last week, so since we were already away for a few days, we tacked on an extra few and went camping. I feel refilled, so felt inclined to write some tips on how to keep your own well filled.

1. Take a drive
It doesn't matter where you are going – in fact, a lack of destination can be all the more inspiring (and, no stress for a deadline!). Get yourself set up with some good tunes (I'd like to recommend David Bowie – Hunky Dory), crank up the stereo, and get gone. If you don't have a car, get on the next city bus to nowhere and let the world flash past.

2. Get out of your house
I live where I work, so I find it hard to have a healthy work-life balance. There is always something to be cleaned, or fixed, or maintained. There are cats to feed, pots to make, laundry to do, plants to water. Sometimes the only thing to do is get AWAY from where the work is. Book a campsite. Drive to the beach, put the seats down and sleep in the car. Treat yourself to a B&B in no-place in particular (Air BNB is affordable, and easy). Find a friend who needs to get out too, and swap houses for the night - or a week!

We paddled out to our campsite, and other than cooking food and drying all our belongings that got rained on, we spent three days swimming, paddling, reading, napping, watching the fire, drinking tea, and making friends with the woodland rodents. Bliss.

3. Quiet your surroundings
Resist the urge to turn on the radio. Take your earbuds out. Find a place where you can hear the birds, the bugs, and the breeze. Or find a park bench in the city and listen to the sounds of traffic, children laughing (or screaming), sirens and car horns, and footsteps on the sidewalk. Close your eyes, listen, and maybe, fall asleep.

That leads me to:

4. Take a nap
I don't know why, but there is something particularly magical about falling asleep in the mid-day sunlight. Regardless of if I finished working in the studio at 3am and was up again at 8, taking an afternoon nap feels like I'm playing hookey, and there is no better feeling than that. Throw in falling asleep to an afternoon movie (bring on the guilt!), and you'll be filled up for an evening of work.

5. Give your eyeballs some beauty to look at
Take a walk and look at the wildflowers. Notice the perfectly spaced needles on a tree branch. Visit a museum or art gallery, by yourself, and instead of blasting through at top speed to get through the whole thing, resolve to only see a fraction, and spend more time with each piece. Sit and stare. Stay up late to see the stars, wake up early and watch the sun light up in colour. Pay attention to details. There is beauty to be found in the world, you just need to notice.


I haven't posted in a couple weeks because Father's Day was coming. Then it came, and then it went, and I wanted to write about my dad but I just didn't know what to say. Part of blogging is sharing a message with readers, but the other part of blogging is keeping a journal for myself.  I often find it difficult to put my thoughts into spoken word, I stumble over sentences and am never satisfied with how my ideas are articulated. But I can write my heart out, spill my guts onto paper and feel relieved.

I wanted to write about my Pa sooner, but I wasn't sure how my gut-spilling would be received on my business-related blog. Yesterday during one of my all-too-often self-analysing-pep-talks , I decided, f*** it. I make functional objects about community. They are made for family dinners and afternoons on the patio with friends. They are made forsharing food, sharing love, and sharing moments with the people you care about. They are MADE for gut-spilling - for crying your eyes out with the warmth of a cup of tea in your hands, tears dripping off the end of your nose and splashing into the contents within. My WORK is personal, so my blog can be too. So, here's a blog post about my dad:

This is my dad. He went by Dave, except for his sisters and mom who called him David. He went by Dad or Pa or Pops or "Father" (my sisters and I), he went by Mr Smith (my mom, or friends of ours who were scared of him), he was an uncle to 6 nieces and nephews, father to three girls, a dog and two cats.

He was a man who worked with his hands - he was a carpenter, a roofer, a plumber, a welder, an electrician, a landscaper, an arborist, a gardener, a chef, a mechanic, a photographer - he was a craftsman.

He had high expectations of himself and the people around him - he took pride in his work, and never half-assed anything. He drove that into us early - we were working by the time we were 8, delivering newspapers every Sunday morning before 8am - if we wanted to see a movie, we had to work to make the money to pay for it. He took us to work with him in the summer time during school break. He taught me to build fences and decks, haul bricks, use a hammer and drill, and lay patios. And because he worked so hard, I couldn't help but want to work that hard too. We had our first real jobs at 14 and worked at least 20 hours a week throughout highschool. If we wanted to work more, we could always work for Dad. On days that we worked together, he wouldn't wake us up and make sure we were ready - if we weren't up he would leave without us. "It's up to YOU to get up and go to work" he would say. After work on a hot day we would go through the "McRaunchy's" drive-thru in his big black truck with trailer in tow, and have chocolate milkshakes on the way home.


He loved to cook and make food from scratch - always baking bread and trying out new recipes. He was the kind of dad who had his best friend over to make homemade sausages on the weekend before the football game, or you would come home from school to the house filled with the smell of cooked cauliflower, while he blanched and vacuum-sealed pounds of vegetables for use over the winter. He made homemade waffles on Saturday mornings, and had just about every kitchen appliance that ever existed. We have a photograph of him in the kitchen, cutting a frozen roast apart with a handsaw - this photograph sums up my dad in many ways.

He was the pioneer of our family camping trips. We spent the days laying in the hammock while Dad swung us back and forth, or at the beach while he floated around on an air mattress or stood us on his shoulders and flung us into the air. At night we played Monopoly and Cribbage by lantern. He flew kites, and took us on bike rides - we played charades around the campfire, sang songs, and he'd dance and make us laugh.


He was a GREAT dad.

This was the first Father's Day without him - he died on February 10 of this year, just over four months ago. The whole experience is still very fresh, the wounds are still raw, and I'm still f***ing heartbroken. I've always loved my dad, but it was only in the last few months of his life that I truly realised how similar we are, how much of me is me because he was him. I believe he knew I loved him, but I feel now that you can never really love somebody ENOUGH - not in the way they deserve. I want to give him a million more hugs than I gave him, I want him to give me a million more bristly cheek kisses than I let him. I want to ride bikes with him, play cards, go swimming, play catch. I want to go to work with him - have him tell me to lift something heavier than I think I can because "you'll be fine" (he was always right). I want him to reassure me in the easy way he always did that it will work out, not to worry, that I can do anything I want to. I want to tell him about my day even when I've done nothing in particular. I want to sit with him quietly on the swing at the bottom of their garden and listen to the water fall into the pond he built. I want to make the planters he kept asking me to make him and I never f***ing did, because I was too busy. I want to take him to see a comedy show like I promised, and never got around to.

Get off your butt and hang out with your parents. You're too busy? Bullshit. Cook them dinner, go bike riding, play cards, sit in silence together. Write them a heartfelt card and tell them how much your life is enriched because of them - write it on a day that isn't Father's Day. They deserve it, and you will never be able to love them enough, but you can love them as much as you can.

We went to Hutches on Sunday, had fish and chips like our family often did. We sat on the beach, flew kites, and celebrated our dad.

This song's for you, Pa.

"I'll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I'll be looking at the moon
But I'll be seeing you "

Emily Schroeder Willis

esw2 What about her? .... I love her work. ADORE even.

What do I love most about it? The pinch-ey finger marks? The voluptuous curves?  Luscious glaze? The overall whimsy and delicacy? I don't know - I can't choose. There are SO MANY qualitites that I am over-the-moon in awe of. The hard truth is that she makes excellent work, and I wish my work were as excellent. These pots are the essence of my love for pottery.

I miss making pinch pots and coil pots. I have spent a lot of time throwing over the past few months, in an attempt to build inventory for shows and sales. But the fact is, I miss manipulating clay without tools. I miss throwing slabs around, I miss attaching parts - designing and building. I especially miss holding a ball of clay and seeing what I can make from it, with only the methodical movement of my fingers (and maybe a scoring tool).


Please visit Emily Schroeder Willis' website and fall in with her work yourself. Warning: Drool .. it might happen.