Saturday, February 27, 2010

Geoffrey Bibby

It's one thing to see a famous person, but another to have the opportunity to spend some time in conversation.

I met Geoffrey Bibby when he arrived in Bahrain to do a BBC special about the tumuli and water qanats of Bahrain.

Mr. Bibby later became curator of the Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus, Denmark, where many artifacts from Bahrain are housed. The museum also has a large collection of Viking artifacts.

Tumuli are earthen or stone burial chambers dating from ancient times. Bahrain is peppered with them. On an island roughly 27 miles long and 14 miles wide, as I remember, there are an enormous amount of tumuli over the terrain. It has been referred to as the largest burial site of the ancient world. It isn't clear whether the island supported a large population or if it was used as a large tomb site for religious reasons.

One theory is that Bahrain or Dilmon was the original location of the Garden of Eden (although there are many places that have claimed that) and another that it was the original location of the Tree of Life, a prevalent motif or symbol of the ancient world. During the original excavation of a Babylonian-era temple and city site, a well fed by a spring and a small basket containing a skeleton of a snake curled around a round pearl-like stone were found. The Snake and the Pearl or Dragon and Pearl are ancient icons of the far and middle east.

Qanats are a system of underwater channels built to conserve water. They are punctuated at intervals with access towers . These water systems were in use all over the middle east. Some are still used today. The water table has dropped considerably in Bahrain, so at the time I was there, they were dry and accessible for exploration.

Mr. Bibby was the archaeologist who confirmed that the ancient kingdom of Dilmun was Bahrain. I believe there is a mention of the name Dilmun in the Bible and legend has it as the island where the ancient Sumerian hero, Gilgamesh, after surviving a catastrophic flood (much like Noah) went to the land of Dilmun in search of eternal life. This story, first written in verse on clay tablets, was used by Bibby to research and later find a 4000-year old temple and ruins, establishing the connection between Dilmun and Bahrain. His book Looking for Dilmun was written about his search.

Trained as a classical archaeologist and versed in Assyrian script, Mr. Bibby was well versed in many fields and was a fascinating conversationalist. At a roof-top dinner party one evening, we had a most interesting conversation about the effects of geography on the development and migrations of people in history. He spoke about the process of working in archaeology and researching european pre-history. It was one of the most interesting evenings I have ever spent.

Later I was able to go down into the ruins at Barbar and stand on a floor that had not seen the light of day since the days of Babylonia. And even later, a small group of us were allowed to climb down and explore the passageways of the water qanauts--bats and all. But that's another story.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Olympics


If you 'metal' in a competition,

do you 'podium' to receive it?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Write It DOWN!

How many times have you done something with glaze, just on a whim while you're into glazing, didn't write it down and by the time you've made enough stuff to fill the kiln and finally fired it all and then take the work out and say "WOW, LOOK AT THAT!", you've forgotten what the heck you did?

Not only is the above one of the longest sentences in history but, unfortunately, it is a true sentence.

It's happened to me 'way too many times. Here's an example:

This plate was done in a workshop with unfamiliar clay, unfamiliar glaze and a different kind of firing. So I have an excuse.

But seriously, I did work up a page for my studio notebook that has a header showing the date, the cone, whether it's a bisque firing or glaze firing, how full the kiln was, how long the firing took. There is space below the header for a quick drawing of the pieces, notes about the glaze, etc. and in the upper right corner, a marked-off square for after-firing comments.

Like: Don't use this glaze over that glaze. Or
This glaze needs to be put on thicker/thinner.

It helps.

If you remember to do it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Wow. I just got my toes wet at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

It's one of the biggest shows of it's type in the world and venues are sprinkled all over the city. I can see why people come from all over the world to this event.

It's very easy to get into sensory overload cruising through display tents and huge rooms with tables overflowing with shoals of every color and type of beads, pendents, glass, fiber, wood, metal. Bedazzling walls laden with strings of crystal, glass, silver, etc., aaaaaagh

I went the first day to a relatively small venue in a hotel north of town. Several large rooms were bursting with wares while two wings of the hotel had individual rooms set up for the show--on two floors.

This string of beads really caught my eye. At first I thought they were clay beads and was amazed at the marvelous texture. The vendor told me they were Mexican agates.

They had a good heft about them and a wonderful texture. After spending several hours looking at wares until I was cross-eyed, I had to return to buy them.

Don't know what I'll do with them yet, but the following day at another show, I found some spooled fine silver chain that I think will be great to string them on.

Yes, I am hooked. I've only gone to just the bead and jewelry part of the shows, but I've seen things there I've either been searching for or haven't seen before.

And the great thing is, most of the vendors will bargain!

Another "Brush with Fame"

Brush with fame? I had a collision!

During the early 1980s, my husband was stationed in London with the Navy and I had taken a Civil Service job in the same building he worked in. It was on Audley street, off Grosvenor Square adjacent to the American Embassy in Mayfair.

I had figured out that if I took a sandwich with me and set out at a good pace, I could make it across the corner of Hyde Park and get to Harrod's Department Store and back on my lunch hour. I had done this several times and had discovered some ways to shorten my trip by ducking down a few narrow streets and alleys.
So, one day I was steaming along, munching my sandwich and planning my store attack when I rounded a tight corner and ran smack in to Robert Morely! I mean SMACK into Robert Morely.

He had a hat firmly planted on his head, a cigar in his mouth and after I bounced off his vested stomach, his eyebrows began to bounce, his eyes bulged. He blinked several times and his cigar wobbled in his mouth while he said, "Oh! I SAY! I'm TERRIBLY sorry! Are you all right?" in impeccable Queen's English.

I had recognized him right away and became flustered, but wasn't hurt at all. He just kept apologizing until I laughed and told him I was just fine. He finally tipped his had and said "Good Day, Miss." and continued on his way. Actually, I was lucky he hadn't flattened me. I couldn't stop laughing because he was so comical.

Just recently, I was at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington D.C. looking at a special display of photographs, looked up and saw in profile a man who at first glance, I thought was Sir Patrick Stewart of Star Trek fame. But looking a bit harder, I realized I was looking at Sir Ben Kingsley. There was no one else in the room, although a small group did wonder in and back out, he wasn't recognized.

I continued to look at the pictures as did he, He was very interested in them and got quite close to see all the detail. I didn't disturb him. His family, I later saw, had decided to rest on the benches in the main lobby. He caught up with them and they all left the building together. Only then did someone say, "Was that Ben Kingsley who just left?"

Stewart on the left; Kingsley on the right.

I have 'run into' other celebs and notables as well. And I always wonder, "Should I acknowledge them by saying, "Hi" or something or just leave them alone. A few times I've nodded or smiled if I've caught their eye. And once in National Airport in D.C. I helped Lily Tomlin locate her driver who I had seen earlier.

I wonder how famous people feel about how other people react to seeing them in public. Often in places like Europe, they are looked at, but left alone. If you ignore them completely, are they glad or depressed? I guess it depends on the person.