Interviewsand Articles


From the editor, issue #13: Turning Points

by Richard Whittaker, Apr 2, 2007



Life is full of turning points, most of them pointing us this way and that, and often without our awareness. They happen on scales of seconds, minutes, hours, days, and up and down the spectrum of time and magnitude. But in the ordinary flux of living, sometimes a point stands out like a mountain peak marking an event where one’s life turns in an entirely new direction. Robert Brady’s experience, at the age of sixteen, of making his first clay vessel, was just such a turning point. Brady, one of the Bay Area’s most respected artists, talks about that and other important moments with us. We also meet Marvin Sanders, whose answer, at the age of twenty, to his mother’s unexpected question "What do you want for Christmas?" was another such turning point. The way Marvin tells it, the thought of asking for a flute came out of the blue. He couldn’t have known what was to follow when, on that Christmas Day, he received his mother’s gift, a pawnshop flute with sticking keys. On the other hand, events which accumulate to change the course of one’s life cannot always be identified as clearly as the two examples already mentioned. They often arrive with less drama, but cohere through an inner logic revealed later as the nexus from which a new direction emerged. The story Louisiana potter Michael Miller tells us is like that. The day that Miller and four friends purchased an 80-acre parcel of wilderness somewhere north of Baton Rouge, several smaller, related events reached closure. Leaving the conventional life behind, for the next thirty years Miller would pursue an ideal of subsistence living while acquiring and building everything needed to pursue the ancient craft of wood-fired pottery. Over a period of decades, working in this chosen isolation, Miller produced an exquisite body of work. Why would he choose such a lifestyle? the potter was often asked.  "Because I could," was Miller’ reply. "I guess nature is my thrill." 
     Readers will meet Florin Ion Firimita who came to my attention when I read his story "The Immigrant’s Bed" in The Sun. The story moved me to ask The Sun’s editor, Sy Safransky, for Firimita’s address. Firimita is a writer and a visual artist born in Romania. His immigration to the United States has been, as one would expect, a turning point. The little portfolio of drawings we took from one of Firimita’s sketchbooks merely hints at the wealth of material this artist has produced since coming to the U.S. These sketches of birdcages speak for themselves, I think. 
     Demetrio O. Braceros, city gardener and inspired wood carver, is known to us almost exclusively from visits to Cayuga Park (San Francisco Department of Parks and Recreation). He came to my attention as the unknown, but stellar, object of an overheard conversation. The garden he created at the end of Cayuga Street represents another kind of turning point—in this case, for a neighborhood. I had trouble cutting down the number of photos to the few included here. For those who live near San Francisco, I recommend a visit to this little park. You might be lucky enough to meet the artist/gardener at work.
     Rounding out issue #13 are a few words about this year’s film festival, which we produce in collaboration with the Berkeley Art Center. It was our second annual installment of the BAC international Small Film Festival. Then there is the photography of Stephen Seko, who I met at the Phillips Gallery in Salt Lake City where he directs Bonnie Phillips’ Golden Rule Project (  We owe our beautiful cover image to Seko. It’s from a manipulated SX-70 Polaroid print. And we raise the question, do two photos make a "portfolio"? It may be stretching it, but numbers aren’t everything. Finally, in this issue we reach the end of our serialization of Rue Harrison’s second book of Indigo Animal’s adventures. Next issue we start Book Three! For those who are coming to these stories late, you can catch up by turning to page 65 and following the directions about how to get the books themselves. Enjoy!

About the Author

Richard Whittaker is the founding editor of works & conversations and West Coast editor of Parabola magazine.


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