The Gift

I began giving away small, handmade ceramic objects almost 15 years ago while still at art school.  For lack of a better title, it has been loosely referred to (in my mind at least) as my ‘gift project’.  Being a maker of high-end ceramics, this gift project has become a way for me to momentarily leave the world of commerce, commodity, and impersonal exchange of money-for-‘thing’, and bestow a gift upon someone, (usually a stranger), or to a place.  In either case, it was almost invariably anonymous, and offered when I felt inspired – either by that person, or that place - to do so. I have left things in various places – Germany, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, parts of the US and Canada.  Over the years I have also given many of these objects to friends to take with them on travels, or back with them to their home in other countries, to offer to others (people or places) when they feel compelled. Friends have left or ‘gifted’ things in Afghanistan, Vietnam, India, Mexico, and many countries in Europe.  It is wonderful to imagine the ‘life’ that these objects may lead when they leave my studio.   It is also wonderful to imagine the delight, curiosity, wonder, and hopefully joy that finding a wee object in an unexpected place may engender.   That the object be witnessed or acknowledged by another (human) is not important though. I feel that a place also holds a spirit or an energy, which will quietly receive the gift as well as any person.  It is the spirit of the offering, the intention with which it is made,  the passing on, and the letting go that is the point.
This is the spirit with which I embarked on (Re)Seed – the participatory installation I created at The New Art Festival in Ottawa June 4/5, 2011.  (Re)Seed is essentially an extension of what has been to this point, more or less, a private activity for me.  Inviting the public to enter into the relationship between maker, giver and receiver has been an interesting process.  The gift exchange occurs on many levels.  I gave the viewer the visual gift of the installation, and then invited individuals to enter into the exchange by giving them a flower (that they pick) from the installation.  The flowers were free.  The ‘catch’ (if there is one), was that they cannot keep the gift.   They are asked to ‘re-seed’ it in a public place, or to someone (preferably a stranger) that needs some inspiration, joy, beauty, or simply a ‘lift’; and take a picture in situ to send to me.  These photos and stories/comments are being posted (ongoing) on the fieldwork website for others to enjoy.
I made 1900 ceramic flowers for this installation.  It was a bit of a daily meditation, over the course of several weeks, for me to work away, bit by bit, at their creation.  Approximately 1600 flowers were ‘picked’ by visitors to the festival.  Photos are now trickling in which is a great delight for me.
I will be posting more about this project in the coming weeks so do check back from time to time.

 

Artist's Bio
Susie Osler is a ceramic artist living in Eastern Ontario. The gift, or offering, public participation, nature, and delight are central concepts in much of her work.  Her interest in public art – particularly for rural spaces led to the development of fieldwork in 2008 - a public art space dedicated to site-specific work, which is located in one of the fields on her farm. She, together with 3 others (Chris Grosset, Chris Osler, and Erin Robertson) make up the fieldwork Collective.