I. When I was pregnant part of my nesting obsession was a sudden, passionate need to teach myself to bake. This was either some archetypal goddess thing or maybe was related to unbelievable sugar cravings. Still pregnant, I made chocolate chip cookies by the hundreds and then nursing my newborn Birdy I made oatmeal cookies. (Do you know oatmeal is a galactagogue? I could tell a huge difference. Muffin top bra-spill difference.)
Last Fall I made my first loaves of bread (immortalized by Bu's photo at right) and I fell in love with the process. Part of it was the rhythmic zen of kneading, which I'll always secretly refer to as wedging given my love of ceramics. These parallel rituals- working the air pockets out of clay, and working dough to elasticity and smoothness- along with a childhood memory of baker's clay married bread and clay in my mind. When I was little, my Aunt Pea made these beautiful little folksy "cookie dough" Christmas tree ornaments. The "clay" is difficult, and it puffs up a little, so it lends itself to simple, cute shapes. She'd paint one, then brush it with a blackish brown and wipe that away to antique it, then shellac it. They looked sort of like ceramic and sort of like a very soft wood.
When the Bird was still nursing to sleep, I'd daydream for a long time while I nuzzled her close, and I created a thousand bodies of art in my head that I'll never have time to create. (When I do find time, I'll have moved on- my brain moves ahead through works I've never explored. That makes me sad, like little zygotes of ideas just discarded...) One of the themes I imagined was this installation thing with baker's clay. I mused and tasted ideas in my mind, swirling together the ideas of clay and creation and myth with flour and baking and women and family, the home, economy, class ideas... I never could really weave it all together, but I still wonder if I'll work with these concepts sometime.
One image that stands out and stays with me is a plain, canvas apron with a beautiful anatomical drawing of a uterus and ovaries embroidered in a rich, deep red. I'm in love with this item, enough to want to make it. I saw it as part of that multimedia piece about bread-clay-bakers-women, and I don't know if those ideas will ever stick together, but I really want that apron. I want to wear it when I bake my bread and cookies, and let it just be a question and a prettiness about there being something satisfying on a primal level about baking for my family, while at the same time mocking and critiquing the woman-in-kitchen history.
It's sort of Judy Chicago retro , though. Maybe it doesn't say much now. Maybe it's more important that the bread is about slowness, and self-reliance, and quiet reflective work. Maybe it's just creating food from simple matter (soft, lovely flour) in my home and not grabbing processed, soulless food from a sliding window or a microwave oven.
It was part of my largest obsession, art I need to dig into solidly- art asking this: What is human? I need to ask that, to discover for myself where my species lives now, contextually . I need to locate us between fire and circuitry, between hunt-gather and eating by TV light. I need to reach backward and find ritual that connects me, and my baking feels that way- Old. Simple. Slow.
II. It's Demeter. It's me being that archetype, and how quickly I burst out of Persephone into DemeterMotherhood. Defining myself always as a daughter or mother and now starting to see the lack of a self-core in both these stories. I can't live full and real and deep while I define myself completely in relation to those I've lost and birthed and married.
My definition of self simply and truly is Artist. Has been since fingerpaints and mudpies. I have to find small ways to remember and celebrate this self. Baker, mother, are facets of that making-creating self; that's why they feel so innately right.