Ruth Barker

Three Offerings

Openaries, Gi festival
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Three Offerings


Reading, 8 minutes, approximately. Three Offerings was developed for 'Openaries', a collaborative project for Glasgow international 2014.

Openaries was a series of events held in Glasgow between April 4-21, 2014, created by artists Anna Mayer and Laura Aldridge. Three large-scale sculptures resulting from the gatherings were exhibited at Trongate 103, Glasgow. Working from a shared interest in analogue firing techniques, Mayer and Aldridge designed and built a portable ceramics kiln out of oil barrels welded together. The 'double barrel double downdraft kiln' was the focus of three themed firing events in Glasgow and existed as a dreamy, 'twin-derkammer' vessel-sculpture mirroring the two artists who came together to make it. With performative and ceramic contributions from local artists and practitioners, the public gatherings were both ritualistic and casual, and served as a way for the temporary community of the arts festival to engage with larger cross-sections of the city. Three Offerings was presented as part of Openaries I: Thought forms/Theories of the universe (uttered rather than written) / John Baldessari at The Hidden Gardens, Tramway, Glasgow.

More information on Openaries, see here.




Three Offerings.



At the start of everything, is clay. It is trapped beneath the fingernails of gods.


In the garden, as the fire gets going, we stretch our voices. Our mouths cup the air, press it into shapes, mould it. We make figures with our lips, and then offer them to the evening and the fire. Take them.

Take these words, and make them solid in the flames. Make them powder yellow salt. Make them thick and strong.

Take these cast off sounds and make them last by heating them, burning them, letting them oxidise and glow and set in the embers. Let the fire die. When the words are ready, take them out, and set them on the ground. As they cool they make a sound like, Pink.

Then we will hold our words in our hands, like warm and solid nuggets. We will stroke them. We will examine them close to, looking at their surfaces, judging their colours and their form.

Once they have been through the fire, the words will be permanent, but not quite themselves. The words will be fixed, made flesh in the fire that fixes them, and yet they are changed. All their movement will have gone. Once solid, the words will be the sculpted shapes of gods, which hold no mystery. What the fire takes, it keeps.


The fire takes breath.

The fire takes light.

The fire takes wandering.

The fire takes pleasure.

The fire takes sight.

The fire takes transferral.

The fire takes measure.

The fire takes hold.


It gives clay.

It gives iron.

It gives company.


What the fire gives, stays. We throw our words out as offerings. Those that do not reach the flames fade quickly in the half-light. They are the lucky ones, whose shapes remain unmoored.





I tried to make something. My hands to know how to make. They are strong.

I thought of the thing, and brought it to the front of my mind. I examined it.

I thought of the shape of it: as big as my head.

I thought of the weight of it: a bag of flour.

I thought of the feel of it: hard and cool and rough under my fingers.

I thought of the breath of it: very still, and seldom.

I thought of the colour of it: soil, with faded yellow flanks.

I thought of the age of it: ancient and new.

I thought of the smell of it: slightly metallic.

I thought of the sound of it: a spade hitting bone.

I thought of the taste of it: inedible.

I thought of the life of it: aeons under the stars.

I thought of the sap of it: mica splintering away.

I thought of the love of it: it turned its face away.

I thought of the space of it: lying in the crook of my left arm.

I thought of the number of it: alone in the world.

I thought of the song of it: brittle and low like the mist of early morning.

I thought of the heat of it: cool but not cold to the touch.

I thought of the memory of it: waking from the dream of someone mourned and missing.

I thought of the shape of it: roundish, curled in on itself, with a lip and funnel to an inside that is slippery, smooth, and dark.


I flexed my hands slowly. I did not know where to start.



In the garden, as the dusk comes on, we open our mouths. The words emerge, and we let them spin lightly to our feet. We do not throw them to the fire, and instead they dart like yellow fireflies under their own wings, flicking down past us and landing softly on the dark soil. Living, wriggling and luminescent, they burrow and coil into the ground.


Sometimes it is good to be silent. I sit opposite you, in the kitchen. I feel the shape of the air between us. I feel the wood of our table beneath my elbows. I feel the light from the window at my side. I feel the linoleum beneath my crossed feet. And I watch you


The way your hair;

the way your mouth;

the way your eyes,

the way your skin,

the way your hand,

the way your wrist.


We are both very still, but breathing.

My throat is stopped up, blocked by something. I have no words. I cannot make them come. There is quiet among the coffee mugs and plates. I look, and do not say. You look, and look away. But we are breathing in time still, both of us, together, after the fire.