The Duck-feet Goblet

How can odd collectibles inspire? How can freaky yet treasured objects have the power to, well, power us forward? Surely you own some strange little something that’s followed you from place to place, that’s evoked a succession of smiles or head-shakes. You have no idea why you still have it. Why you snatched it from someone, once. Why you haven’t just pitched it out. Yet you know you will keep it forever, and in a place of honor, no less!

It’s that way with my duck-feet goblet. Obviously crafted in the freewheeling 1970s by some slightly deranged artisan, it’s just wrong. An art object that raises objections. Funny, yet not.

I think much of the appeal relates to the memories it stirs. Back in my own freewheeling 1970s I kept my horses at Jeanne and Chuck Wolfe’s Bridlewood Stables near Seattle. I wrote fast and furiously for The Seattle Times, enjoying some notoriety, mostly good. We horse-pals gathered at the owners’ home every Christmas for a Barn Party that featured fabulous food and a fast-paced White Elephant gift exchange. We brought wrapped presents — weird or recycled stuff being highly prized — and rolled dice to make our selection. We could choose an unwrapped gift, or take somebody else’s unwrapped one. And take it again until time ran out.

That duck-feet goblet first claimed by Boots Leonard was the coolest thing I had ever laid my peepers on! Purposeful, hand-crafted, funny. Never mind the “ick” factor. I had to have it.

We went around the circle rolling dice, taking gifts, for an hour. We were twenty people. I took the goblet, but Boots kept taking it back. When the clock stopped she had it. I was crestfallen. Then she rose, walked over and handed it to me. I felt grateful and humbled.

Yes, I still smile and shake my head at the goblet, forty years later. Yes, it is an emblem of its time, of the friends, the aesthetic and the hopeful energy of days that still dance and glow in memory. But it is also more. It represents myself — a slightly odd but capable artist going her own way, IN her own way, eliciting her own smiles and followers.

Bonus: The duck-feet goblet, like the artist, stands in its own truth, holds a universe of ideas, is a testament to friendship, and owns its uglier aspects while working for a higher purpose.


Well, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

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