For this week's 'In Her Permanent Collection' series, we reached out to one of our favorite makers, the New York-based ceramic artist, Simone Bodmer-Turner, who's currently in residency at Shiro Oni Studio in Japan. In her work, Simone frequently draws inspiration from ancient objects in the permanent collections of museums like the Metropolitan—we were eager to see what personal possession she would choose to place in her figurative 'Permanent Collection.'
Simone Bodmer-Turner: My 'Permanent Collection' thing is a sort of linen jacket-shirt I found in a thrift store in Brooklyn a couple summers back.
Permanent Collection: Tell us more about this special 'shirt-jacket'?
S.B.T.: I wore it almost every day until the very old and thin fabric started to break along all the seams. Since then I have been patching it constantly with my loose interpretation of the Japanese technique of 'shashiko' I learned and practiced when I was last at Shiro Oni. There must be thousands of stitches in it at this point. As soon as I get it patched up another place thins out and I have to add a piece of linen to the inside and stitch it together. I’ve spent more time patching it than wearing it in the last year - I take it on road trips, weekends in the mountains, and add lines of stitches whenever I have moments.
P.C.: Does the stitching and mending work feel meditative?
S.B.T.: This summer I sat at my grandmother's bedside as she was dying and added lines of stitches to the shirt. It was an incredibly surreal and spiritual experience, and the embroidery helped me slow down and be with her in a way that was very familiar to her—even when she could no longer communicate, she continued her rituals of care-taking and mending. Now that experience is stitched into the fabric, it means so much more to me. The garment has transformed into a kind of sacred object and a meditative practice. The shirt is with me in Japan now again, and I’m hoping to finally get all the patches stitched fully on while I’m here in residency for the next month and a half. Hopefully I’ll be able to wear it again by next spring.
P.C.: Can you share a few of your trustiest second-hand destinations?
S.B.T.: When I’m home, 10 Ft Singles and Stella Dallas are always my go-to for vintage Flax and worn-in workwear. I usually try to stay away and not tempt myself with things I don’t need, but sometimes I just get a feeling that what I’ve been looking for is there, and sure enough, when I go it is sitting there waiting for me. My best find yet, besides the linen shirt, of course, was a calf length rusty salmon colored suede jacket in amazing condition for $75. When I’m here in Japan, the flea market a couple towns over from where I am in residency has an incredible selection of beautiful old knives, combs, tea bowls, and fabrics and garments handed down for generations. I’m actually biking over there this morning.
P.C.: Where are your favorite spaces to see art?
S.B.T.: Noguchi, always. Besides the beauty and simplicity in the architecture and materials of the space, I love the juxtaposition between his rougher hewn stonework and his refined marble curves. I always think of him when I feel conflicted that I’m pulled in so many directions at once. I’m particularly drawn to his rougher work, they hold such magnetic space around them, and in the same vein, I loved when Gonzalo Fonseca’s work was on view there last year. They also do some really incredible installations and performances in the gardens. As for galleries, I love the shows that Patrick Parrish has been doing, and his collection of both contemporary artists and vintage designers that are very much in the style that resonates with me. The curation rides the line of art and functional design which I am so constantly investigating within my own work. I love to see what other artists are doing in this realm.
P.C.: What dish would be the equivalent to your ‘permanent collection’ thing?
S.B.T.: My family never ate much meat, and I still don’t today, but a special recipe my parents would make growing up was called Hunter’s Chicken. It’s about the most incredible thing you can eat on a cold winter night and makes the house smell amazing. Now that Samin Nosrat taught me to salt my chicken the day before, it tastes even better than it did growing up. You crisp chicken in rosemarried (not a word, but it worked too well not to use) olive oil and then simmer in it white wine and a touch of vinegar. At the end, you bring the whole crock pot to the table and have a loaf of crusty bread to dip into the drippings/wine sauce. I still make it for big family style dinners with my friends and make a big green salad and some roasted roots to go with it. (See recipe at the bottom of the post).
P.C.: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
S.B.T.: I always prefer to give and receive presents when something really speaks to me of someone, rather than strictly around holidays. My family was never big on gifts around birthdays and Christmas. These days I don’t get any physical presents, but I get plane tickets, which is pretty much the best thing I could ask for. I’m so grateful that my family supports the travel and creative study I do abroad, and they often come to visit!
P.C.: Describe a current project you are currently working on, or a current obsession.
S.B.T.: I am currently in residency in Japan at Shiro Oni Studio, and trying to slow down after the whirlwind in which I left New York trying to finish up commissions and move into / build out my new studio space. The mental and physical shift from being in full gear to the quietness of being here has actually been quite discombobulating. But as the jet lag fades, I am starting to appreciate the stillness rather than reeling within it grasping for something to accomplish. I have been working pretty much with one clay body for over a year now, and going back to something so muddy and much less refined has been tactilely challenging to maneuver and build what I intend to. After spending the last couple months working to create a finished piece, I am here to be fully in the process of the making without the pressure of producing something. Right now that feels really uncomfortable, but because it is uncomfortable it must be necessary because the making is what it’s all about and is the reason I was enchanted with and committed to this medium. I must be sure to never get too distant from that.
Hunter’s Chicken (adapted by Simone from The Romagnolis’ Table, 1975)
Ingredients (serves 6ish):
4 lbs. frying chicken, or parts (legs and wings are the best)
3 tbl. olive oil
1 garlic clove
2 tsp. rosemary
½ tsp. salt
¼ c. wine vinegar
½ c. dry white wine
Simone's note: Salt the chicken well a day in advance, so that it seeps into the meat and tenderizes it all the way through. If you don't have a full day, the sooner the better. Put back in the fridge if you're doing a day before. Fine to leave out if it's just a couple hours before.
1. Cut chicken into 8 pieces, or buy chicken parts from your local butcher.
2. Crush the garlic with the flat side of the knife and remove the skin. Heat the oil with the garlic in a Dutch oven. When the garlic is golden, discard it ( I sprinkle the crisped garlic with salt and eat it as a snack while I cook ).
3. Add fresh sprigs of rosemary to the oil, and brown the chicken pieces thoroughly with the rosemary. Be sure to turn the pieces on all sides. If your crock pot is not big enough, you have to do in batches so that they have room to crisp.
4. When the chicken is a deep golden brown, add the wine vinegar covering the pan quickly until the sizzling stops (1-2 mins). Ok to put all the chicken pieces in at once, after they are browned.
5. Add the wine and cook on high heat until it has evaporated the alcohol (the vapors will no longer tingle the nose).
6. Reduce the heat and put the cover on to simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through but still tender.
7. Bring entire pot to table and serve with crusty bread.