by Carol Liknaitzky
When I embarked on this journey of creating the 22 Major Arcana in ceramics, it was a commitment to developing my imagination and finding a way to express the lessons of my life through these ‘windows’. Prior to this I did not have any real knowledge of the Tarot. I was inspired when a Tarot reader friend of mine once said that all the stories of the world are to be found in these 22 Major Arcana.
Before I created each sculpture, I read what I could and then explored the character in my imagination. I needed to sense its soul mood, or the fundamental gesture that is expressed. I asked questions such as -What is the particular life perspective for that character? Can I sense this from the inside out? Sometimes it would take months before the character emerged for me. I would often realise later that I had needed to have particular life experiences, in order to help open the doors to inspiration.
From a practical point of view, I have developed a process of building the sculptures from the feet upwards. In that way the sculpture grows in relation to the dialogue between me and the clay, dependant on the forces of gravity, balance and the essential core. I choose not to use any armature to support it and so must find a way to form it so it can stand in its integrity. I have discovered that when it doesn’t stand, I have to rebuild it until I find the centre of energy of that character in myself. For example, when I created the lion for The Charioteer, I rebuilt the lion about nine times before I could access within myself the core energy of his ferocity that enabled him to stand strong.
This character speaks to me about the first step in any journey. I could so easily relate to what it means to take the first step in initiating things. Over the past 30 years I have initiated projects, founded organizations and jumped into developing new things with energy and no ready-made path or recipe. Embarking on this particular journey in ceramics was just such a leap of faith for me.
My Fool is balanced on one foot, flexible, arms wide, open to the world and leaping without a care for what lies ahead. At first when I made him he was a solitary figure and I realized he needed to have a contrast between his carefree joyfulness and a representation of danger and fear –his unconscious shadow. I found it so enjoyable to make the dragon with his scaly body, his spikey wings and purple gums and teeth. It definitely added dramatic tension to the sculpture. It was ironic in terms of the content, as the Fool was made very carefully and consciously and making the dragon was a quick and spontaneous experience.
The Fool is a being of youthful enthusiasm, gay abandonment and no fear for the future. He leaps with his rose in one hand and in the other hand, an impossibly small bag to carry his worldly belongings. The rose is an image of the Ideal world, while the small bag of possessions represents his very frugal needs. The Fool, for me, is an archetype for all beginnings. We never feel prepared enough, but have to let go of fear and trust that whatever happens will be for the best.
For me, he is a mediator between the Fool and the world, a mercury-type character. In my life I have been involved in facilitating learning processes and building partnerships within and between groups of people. I have often felt like a juggler of many elements.
I tried to ‘catch’ the juggling magician in clay, in the middle of his movement, while he spins the objects in a lemniscate around his head. The lemnicate I made with copper wire. I give him the wings of Mercury at both of his ankles to express lightness and mercurial agility. His belt is represented as the Ouroborus, the snake with his tail in his mouth, the Egyptian symbol of infinity. The Magician can stand in all worlds simultaneously without losing his centre or his purpose. I sensed a very powerful but gentle spirit in the nature of the Magician. I could relate very easily to what that magical juggling means in life, being mother to five, development worker, artist and traveler, while trying to find balance and presence of mind. The magical aspect in life particularly comes from finding helpers miraculously along the way who manifest just when needed.
Nature with its feminine foundation is what inspired me for the character of The Empress. Mother Earth, an archetype of prolific fertility and nurturing, is a dreaming being, deeply involved in creation. The Empress is the Fool’s physical mother being that manifests all the seasons.
I began the sculpture by creating the woven chair for her, which contained her pregnant belly. From there I built the figure upwards and downwards, and lastly created her head and face. I experienced a wonderful sense of play and childhood while I created the manifestations of nature around her, the old dead tree, the fruitful pomegranate tree, the river, water lilies, corn and the bird.
The Fool’s physical father figure in my journey is The Emperor. I spent some time trying to live into what it must mean to be truly masculine, earthed and strong. I sensed that The Emperor would be conscious and aware, as opposed to the dreaming feminine nature of The Empress. I imagined a scene that would call on the most courageous attitude. For instance, what kind of courage and steadfastness would it take to face a very large army of soldiers, knowing that you are outnumbered and still go forward.
My Emperor was built up from very strong legs and a large sword resting on the ground creating a threefold foundation. To contrast with The Emperor’s solidity and stability, I wanted his cloak to look as if it was lifted by the wind, to suggest a sense of softness and vulnerability behind him. It was surprising and rewarding to experience the ability of the clay to actually express lightness. I made a number of attempts to form the face of The Emperor until I was satisfied he looked mature and experienced enough to express the gravity, strength and courage of his character.
In addition to these four sculptures, I have completed a further six sculptures so far. I look forward to the continuation of my journey with the Major Arcana. I have just recently immigrated to Australia, which is the biggest leap so far in my life, and I am intrigued to see how my sculpture work will be affected by this change.