The Language of the Fishes

Frances D. Lichtveld

If one day someone should ask you to tell them about alchemy—you might suggest they immerse themselves in Frances Lichtveld’s The Language of the Fishes. For in so doing, they and you will see and feel the mystery of matter and psyche.

Several years ago a friend and colleague asked if I could help Frances Lichtveld find a publisher for something she had written. A few weeks later her extraordinary work arrived in the mail. It was a gift in every sense. Isn’t that what friends give us? I am quite certain that you will find ARAS Connections is now giving you an exquisite gift.

Somewhere Rumi wrote that beyond the world of water and clay one sees both image and Image-Maker.

- Mary Wells Barron



"The point can be reached where one can interrogate a heart by asking it to confess its enthusiasms inspired by the grandeur of the contemplated world..." - Gaston Bachelard

While a number of ideas about the influence of my ceramic career on my life have been present for over twenty years, I first began to write down the technical aspects of my art. Writing does not come easily to me, at least not the kind of writing one would care to share with others. Having kept diaries and dream journals for a very long time it was easy to read and get reacquainted with them. To approach and become re-engaged with my solitary self, very present in the studio, proved a lot more complex because my diaries do not hint of that particular place within, although various dreams do. When I worked with clay I organised my studio to work on my own. Now I unravel that I was, unconsciously, gathering other kinds of information; this became clear in later dreams and contemplations on my life as a potter. My writing is about the necessary return to my studio, in spirit, in search of that unconsciously absorbed and imbedded input. Memories have their particular audacities, it took a lot of courage for me to follow them. The loss of the use of my right arm had put an end to my ceramic career. While outwardly I still kept on living in a meaningful way, I felt lost and wounded, that form of contemplative solitude I experienced in the studio was hard for me to find elsewhere. In the back of my mind there had been a second question: the correlation I felt existed between the way I fired my high-fired reduction ceramics and individuation; would I be able to explain that? My interest lies in what actually occurs inside the kiln during the 10 hour process, not only in the final product. High-fired reduction stoneware with its clear presence and the use of the four elements, earth-water-fire-air, shows a simpler approach than alchemical texts. It is practical and demonstrates directly the results of the mixing of the four elements.

Read The Language of the Fishes in its entirety.