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A Series of Things: The Cow Bowl July 2, 2009

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I have a favorite bowl. It is just less than 9 inches wide and about 2.5 inches deep. It was thrown by a potter named Jeffrey and has a cow painted on it. The cow was painted by my husband Tim. The bowl looks like this:

cow bowl

When I say it’s my favorite bowl, I mean it’s my favorite bowl to eat from. Because there is only one bowl like this, not two, I only eat out of it when I’m alone. It’s great for big salads. It’s great for Asian food. It’s better than a plate if you want to watch TV while stuffing your piehole. It’s the perfect size.

I keep looking for bowls-I-would-love-to-eat-from-close-to-this-size, but I haven’t found the right ones yet.

I also love this bowl because it’s a part of our long-ago history.

When we lived in DC, Tim and I spent a lot of time recreating (hiking, biking, birding, fishing) at a couple of old Civil War hot spots—namely Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I’d spent a lot of time at both those places during high school, and both were a manageable driving distance from the city.

At Harper’s Ferry, we befriended a potter named Jeffrey, who had a shop there. We fell in love with his raku pieces. We stopped in every time we were in town.

The raku was the artsy stuff, but to pay the bills, Jeffrey did a lot of barnyard pieces too, especially cows. People loved to buy a piece of pottery with a cow painted on it. Tim had a serious hankering to throw a few pots, and when Jeffrey discovered Tim was an artist, he offered to hire Tim to paint cows on the pottery in exchange for some money, some discounts, and some time at the wheel.

So Tim ended up painting a lot of cows for Jeffrey. I can’t remember what his top cow-per-hour rate ended up being, but it was something to be proud of. Of course, after painting all those cows, Tim didn’t really have the energy to throw pots. You know how that goes.

Then, in 1993, Jeffrey died very suddenly; he was in his early fifties, I think.

We have some beautiful raku pieces of his. Some of our friends do, too—wedding gifts from us.

But this cow bowl—I use it. We spend a lot of time together: me, the bowl, Jeffrey, Tim, and this cow.


1. Dona (cedarwaxwing) - July 2, 2009

Continue to use it. If it breaks, make a 3D sculpture of it. But using it is the best. I have a lot of pottery from people I have met and people I have not. Some is chipped. I love it all.

2. helen - July 2, 2009

What a lovely bowl, and story.

3. Mali - July 2, 2009

Tears. Because I can relate. I have a favourite set of cups and saucers, made by my friend Phyl. Who died several years ago of breast cancer. Each time I drink from these cups, which are large and fit perfectly in my hand, I think of her.

4. Mali - July 2, 2009

PS. I love Tim’s cow … and the idea of a cow-per-hour rate.

5. laurie - July 3, 2009

i love art you can use, art that’s part of everyday life. that bowl is great. and the story makes it even more special.

6. Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb - July 4, 2009

There’s something really magical about certain pieces of pottery. Maybe it’s that we enjoy them daily in the knowledge that someday they must, they will break.

When that day comes for your bowl (many, many years from now) maybe Tim will paint you one with a yak.

7. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - July 4, 2009

I’ve always loved that bowl. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the story before. In fact, I know I haven’t, because I know I’ll never forget payment in cows-per-hour.

My favorite items are those everyday things, things actually used, that are also somehow sacred to us. Like a ritual knife also used for chopping onions, or a rustic stonewear chalice used for sacred ceremony. Its uniqueness (literally), and Jeffrey’s death, and the big memories associated with it, make this bowl one of those items.

“In that day. ‘Holy to YHWH’ will be inscribed on the horses’ bridles, and the cooking pots will be as sacred as the bowls on the altar.”

8. Adam Byrn Tritt - July 19, 2009

My favorite items are those I can use. My favorite ceramics are those my wife made – high-fire ceramic vases and pots we use still after thirty years.

but my favorite is one I no longer have and have no idea where it has gone to. A yellow Melmac smiley-face plate and bowl. They left at the same time along with one of my small forks. I have one small fork left. I use it. Company, not company, set table or no, I use my fork.

I insist it is because I have a small mouth.

My wife vigorously disagrees.

9. indigobunting - July 20, 2009

Adam, I love it when your comments on my post are practically a post in themselves.

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