Finding Inspiration in the Netherlands

Where do you find inspiration?  Do you always know it when you see it?  Do you always recognize it when you use it?  Many people I admire have a very distinct source of inspiration, like Art Deco era architecture or Victorian textile patterns.  I as yet cannot put my finger upon such a specific source which guides my pot-making.  My making decisions are often guided by intuition, but upon reflection I see patterns and recognize the influence of my experiences.  I see myself as a filter, and what comes out is the essence of what moves me.

This summer I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to soak up the culture of another country, and more specifically a city with a rich history that inspires people beyond its borders.  Last month my husband and I had an incredible two-week adventure in the Netherlands.  Although it wasn’t on to my “must see” list (only because I didn’t know anything about it), I am now in love with this country.  My husband, a Transportation Engineering graduate student at Portland State University, had the opportunity to take a course based in Delft, in order to study the bicycle infrastructure of the Netherlands, along with some other marvels of Dutch engineering (check out his blog halfthefun.net).  As it happens, Delft is also home to a 400-year old pottery tradition, often referred to as Delftware, or Delft blue porcelain.  We came for the engineering, but found so much more.  The mosaic above perfectly encapsulates what our trip was all about.

A little context for you…my husband and I moved to downtown Portland just over a year ago, to be close to PSU while he completes his Masters.  We left an idyllic farm, six miles from the eastern-most suburb of Portland, for an apartment in a high-rise on the street car line.  About eight months ago, we bought bicycles, and our life is so much better for it.  This is THE WAY to experience Portland, arguably the most bicycle-friendly city in the US.  In short, we can take advantage of all the city has to offer without the burden of a car (yes, the BURDEN of a car…I won’t get on that soap box right now), which brings us closer to and more invested in our community.  And it is on our bicycles from which we got to know Delft and the Netherlands.

We bought refurbished bicycles to use for our two-week stay.  We explored Delft, and Brian and his class took daily excursions around the country on their bikes, logging at least 20 miles per day.  The national network of cycle paths makes this a piece of cake, and you can always hop on a train if you’re short on time.  Here are some of the sights our bicycles afforded us, places that resonated with me for a variety of reasons.  Next week, when I get back in the studio for the first time since our trip, I’ll be thinking of these places and the grand times we had.  At this point, who knows what will make its way into my pots…

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