Salia exhibits her ceramic urns.
The vessels you see here are urns; I call them ‘Lebensurnen’ (life-urns). They are objects to be kept well visible in our homes as constant reminders not only of death but also to appreciate the preciousness of life.
How I came to the idea of creating life-urns? When I was 25 I had a car accident. The car skidded, overturned and plunged into the ocean. Before the impact I was convinced that I would die. It went so fast that there was no time for thoughts and therefore no fear could come up. This experience brought me to enquire about what death is. Of course I still do not know, but I remember more and more often to appreciate that I am alive.
I have sold some vessels to be used as urns proper, sometimes by a terminally ill person before their own death or by people who have lost their partners, family members or friends. Meeting these clients are very touching and sincere moments for me.
In the slideshow you see light blue, tan, and pink urns. They have a coating made from liquid dyed clay, polished with a smooth stone. Many of my pieces are additionally burned in an open fire which adds all sorts of earthen shades to the surface.
In an article for Ferment Jahrbuch 2001/2002, in which I presented my work, I wrote the following text (translated from German by Osho News).
The vessel represents the physical body, the content – the emptiness – symbolises the immortal soul. Even if the vessel breaks, the content remains because it is indestructible. It is freed from the material shell, liberated by the polarity of the inner and outer, above and below, positive and negative, light and dark.
Were I aware of earthly life’s fragility at all times and everywhere, I would no longer take its preciousness for granted but give my full attention to every moment; be it in solitude, while meeting other people, animals and in nature. I would breathe in life deeply and with all my senses.
Were I aware of my mortality, I would be able to give my undivided attention to the present. Then only would I realise that being alive means continuous change; that nothing in this world is permanent. That every day, every moment has a different quality. Only in the face of death do I learn to really appreciate my life with all its joys and sorrows, and lose the horror of necessary changes.
I am afraid of dying because I cannot let go, because I hold on to people, habits, life situations and possessions. The fear of losing my body, but also the fear of uncertainty, of the change which death inevitably brings prevents me from thinking about death. I displace the most natural, most inescapable fact which each one of us will experience at some time. The only certainty and reliability in our lives is death.
If I want to perceive life in its entirety I cannot exclude death. Just as it is impossible for light to shine without shadow, earthly life cannot exist without death.
Salia (aka Bernadette Baumgartner) started to work as a potter when she was 27 years old. She has been exhibiting since 1988 in her native Switzerland, Germany and Croatia. At the same time she also started to run workshops. She lives in Switzerland and Greece, offering pottery courses at Mythos in Corfu. www.artha.ch – zenpattern.ch
Salia organises a three-day pottery workshop at Mythos in Arillas, Corfu in October 2015.