Letter from Bennett Bean, AIDA's guest artist for the annual Tel Hai Ceramic Symposium.
There are things that you do that change your understanding of the world. They usually demand that you rethink or develop a new understanding of what you see. How do I thank you for offering me just such an experience? I was transported to another world. Taking me out of my studio in New Jersey, home of Chris Christie, I left home exhausted from a badly negotiated commission and arrived in "what...." Israel. A different universe.

The trip began with an "auspicious coincidence." My son William, who lives in China, was able to rearrange a board meeting that he had scheduled in Israel so we would be able to spend a day or two together. A perfect way to start the visit!
Doug had advertised Aviva as my guide and educator. She was that, but he understated what she does. On my arrival she took me under her wing, found out that I had some idea about Jewish culture, though most of it seemed to have been the result of going out with Jewish girls in college, and planned our itinerary accordingly. So began our tour of historical Israel with a contrasting look at its present day situation... ancient Roman ruins, flea markets, dinner with members of the Israeli arts community in a nineteenth century Turkish building in Tel Aviv, as well as galleries and museums. We started everyday with a wonderful Israeli breakfast. Eight cheeses, smoked fish, four breads etc etc.... my favorite! We visited an artisanal olive grove and tasted the fresh-pressed oil, and had studio visits with a number of artists in Tel Aviv. Then off to Jerusalem and Bezalel, the oldest institution for higher education in Israel... they know where to begin education! Amazing students but then again I'm always a sucker for "the kids." For them, it is all still possible. Everyday we experienced the peoples' deep love of the land as well as the country's cultural divides.  

The final three days were spent team-teaching on a kibbutz. It was wonderful to be working with Sarah Moorhouse and Nuala O'Donovan in our joint workshop with Israel as our background. It was a taste of international ceramics working with these women and responding to the participant’s questions. I developed a new understanding of their thought processes and ways of working that were so different from my own. Contrast illuminates! We worked in front of an enthusiastic audience of 200 potters from all over the country as they moved from presentation to presentation. As always, the open air “pit firing” drew the biggest crowds. There is that magic about fire.
So thank you to AIDA for the connections, illuminations and education.
Bennett Bean