I had the idea and process for creating the “Line Upon Line” collection of Hebrew jar-type Dead Sea Scroll replicas for quite some time, but I needed to nail it down somehow. I also needed an excellent time to put the collection together. When I was invited by Gallery41 in Owego, New York, to be a guest artist for July 2022, I took the opportunity.
In the past, I used the iron oxide wash technique in small ways on the shave brush handles. Some time back, I created a whole series of brushes, a collection on the topic of Ancient warriors found in biblical literature. When fired, I enjoyed how the red iron oxide brought out the texture patterns of the clay and sent the color to an ancient-looking toasty brown. I thought that if this process and technique worked for small pieces, it might turn on great on somewhat larger.
I made up 20 pieces for the project with about five pounds of clay each. I trimmed and dried them out and inscribed Hebrew out of the biblical texts of Isaiah. I always thought the verse of Isaiah 28:10 sounded beautiful when read in Hebrew. I decided the body of work should be called “Line Upon Line.” I also wanted an inscribed text in Hebrew connecting all the pieces, so I used small quotes out of the texts of Isaiah on the topic of Justice to combine them all. Inscribing the Hebrew was a challenge as I had not practiced writing the letters for quite some time.
I was relieved when all but one pot survived the firings and process, as I cut everything a bit close with the deadlines and getting the show set up by going for the idea and collection. I have always enjoyed the study of Ancient Near Eastern texts and Biblical literature, especially the Dead Sea Scrolls and their discovery. The ancient pottery jars the scrolls were found in are amazing to me, and I found the idea of pottery preserving literature and writings with the use of clay interesting. You may view an up-close container of a dead sea scroll vessel here. Also, look for yourself at “The Great Isaiah Scroll (1QIsa) by clicking here.
The next project I am thinking about will be to learn a bit of ancient Cuneiform and write in texts. I love both textures on pots, and texture that can be read would be even better. I would love to create a whole series with texts from the Baal Epic or that of Gilgamesh. Thanks to my good friend Richard I have all the material to start learning the process, including the material on the epics.
By clicking here, you may view the “Line upon Line” collection of jars and vases if you wish here. The name of the piece is the name of the reference, and both the Hebrew and English translation was provided along with the dimensions. This special collection of Isaiah “Line Upon Line” of jars and vases were made by my own hand on the pottery wheel and fired and refined in the gas kilns at Creek Road Pottery in Laceyville, PA, along the cold Tuscarora creek. Special thanks to Rabbi John Herbert Ludemann for his guidance and advice on this project.
It was about 2 am when the long train hauling loaded sand cars, and 25 boxers came to a screeching halt just out of the Wright Choice Diner. Hobo Smoky fell into the small town of Laceyville with the force of the stop and landed in a heap at the front of the empty car. His violent stop was padded in a small way by the pile of packing cardboard he had laid out to sleep on. The door of the Union Pacific boxer slid full open, then came crashing back closed against the rail spike Smoky had wedged into the door track to hold it open. At least he wasn’t locked in. Smoky groaned some from the pain of being thrown across the floor and into the car wall when the air brakes kicked on. This had to be bad.
Smoky crawled sore to the door and looked out into the dark night. He saw the soft glow of streetlights about a half mile up the tracks, and the sound of the fire whistle started its lonely cry to wake the sleepy town to the tragedy. “Awww shit. I better get off here.” Smoky rolled up his sleep pad and found his pail of gear scattered about in the car in the dim glow of his flashlight, its batteries running low. Once everything was collected, he tossed the sleep pack and pail to the ground outside the train into the dark night and climbed down out of the car. As Smoky made his way up the tracks, he could make out the flashing lights of emergency vehicles arriving on the scene and could hear the sound of sirens. It was the length of about 35 cars to town, he guessed. Thirty-five cars to walk off the pain. In all his days hopping trains, he could only remember one other time when a 90-car CSX train locked up on its way to Indiana when a dump truck ran the crossing. But that was only a near miss. Whatever happened up ahead had to be much worse. The whole town seemed to be waking up for a meeting at the tracks.
The track was just taken over by R.J. Corman, combining the Lehigh Railway, Owego & Harford Railway, and Luzerne & Susquehanna Railway. Smoky found an open boxer at the Reading & Northern interchange at Mehoopany while they hooked on to fifty sander cars. He was on the Lehigh Railway that heads through Laceyville and hoped for a leisurely trip on his way to see his new grandbaby in Athens. Other than a heavy rainstorm pounding on the box car, things seemed peaceful until the violent stop after he just fell asleep. Smoky hid his gear and bedroll in some brush. As he neared the front of the train, he saw the crew standing together by the big engines. A sheet covered a body while emergency crews worked the scene and everyone waited on the county coroner to arrive. A middle age woman sat on a large rock back some from the train sobbing with her head in her hands, and beside her sat a teenage boy staring blankly into the night, and a big man was on the phone next to them making a call.
” Hey, Missy. This is Jimmy. I know it’s really late, but I was wondering if you could come down and open the Wright Choice. I would never ask, but we are having a bad time here in town tonight, and folks may need someplace to hold up.”
” Hey, big Jimmy, what happened down there? I heard the train lock up clear here where I’m at! Everyone ok?”
“I’m afraid not. Terence Mott was hit on the tracks. It looks like the poor guy fell asleep drinking, and the train didn’t see him until it was too late. Could you come down and open up and make up some coffee for the emergency crew and folks? I got Brenda Mott and Billy here. They are really shaken.”
”Okay, Jimmy, I’m on my way down. Just let me get dressed, and I’ll open up.”
” Thanks, Miss; I owe you big time.”
Big Jimmy then put his phone in his back pocket and saw the outline of Hobo Smoky as he turned.
“Smoky. How are things?”
”Hey, Big Jimmy, sorry to see all of this. The brakes woke me up, and it looks like I’ll be in town for the night. You need help washing dishes at the diner for a day or two?”
”You could not have asked at a better time. You can start right now. I got one of the girls stopping to open and serve coffee and let everyone calm down.”
Big Jimmy sat on the rock next to Mrs. Mott, who was still sobbing and shaking uncontrollably. He put one big arm around her to try and comfort her.
”Okay, I’ll head on up and get to work.” said Smoky
Smoky walked up the small hill, though the laundry on the line, to the rickety back steps of the Wright Choice and waited outside the screen door to be let in. He pulled a smoke from behind his ear and took off his cap and dirty red bandanna. There was something terribly beautiful about the scene from the back steps of the Wright Choice in the fog with the flashing lights. A fair and foul day for sure.
Now, there may not be a hobo Smoky or a Wright Choice Diner, but somewhere, someone dropped by to help at the right time somewhere. This is my story about my town, so I get to tell it how I like.
Creek Road Pottery L.L.C.
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