It is reddish-brown clay, heavy, and maintains the ambient temperature of its surroundings.

It is a 2 ¼” by ½” thick flat disk that rises to a point at the top.

Its face is rough with incised designs and the azure color glaze accents the depressions.

Two ¾” round clay beads each with an azure band of glaze symmetrically accompany it.

Each item is knotted in place on the braided thong that supports it around my neck.

The designer’s name, Maria Giustina, is inscribed on the back.

It is my Clay Pendant.

It’s 1969. My husband and I are strolling around Lucca, Italy after dinner one evening. Lucca’s medieval walls with their four portals both protect and contain the town. It seems we’re in a time warp. We pass a softly lit street level studio. The door is open and a young woman is bent over a high table laboring over something small. Near the center of the space is a potter’s wheel. A small kiln resides in one corner. We disturb her concentration. As I’m about to apologize, she turns to us with a radiant smile of welcome and bids us enter. In my halting Italian I inquire as to what she’s creating and if she has items for sale. She eagerly replies yes and excitedly but shyly shows me three clay pendants. I immediately fall in love with the circular one. When I ask the price, she demurs, and quietly says the equivalent of $3 with a questioning inflexion, as if $3 is too much. I tell her no, it is worth more than that and give her $10.

Her expression is of surprise, then gratitude. She reaches for me, hugs me hard, and with tear-filled eyes, whispers. “You have no idea how much this means to me. To have someone value my work. And pay me for it. Women here aren’t valued for much except cooking and caring for children and elders. The craftsmen are the men. It is very difficult for a woman to be independent, to have a dream, and to make a living. Thank you kind and generous lady.”

Over the years the pendant has accumulated different characteristics.

When I wear it now:

The pendant is still reddish-brown clay but is no longer heavy to me.

It gathers and holds the warmth of my heart and the tenderness of hers.

It is still a 2 ¼” by ½” thick flat disk that rises to a point at the top.

But the point is softened both to the eye and the touch.

I consider its face to be textured with life’s dreams;

the azure color glaze to reflect a perfect sky.

The two symmetrical ¾” round clay beads with azure bands of glaze

remind me to keep my life in balance.

The knotted braided thong was replaced when it tired of its support job.

It reminds me to support whomever and however I can…

The designer, Maria Giustina, has brought me great joy over the years.

It is my Clay Pendant.

Lucca is precious to me because of this piece of art-jewelry.

I’ve thought of her often over the years wondering if she was successful.

Especially against such cultural odds.

I was in Lucca the summer of 2015. I brought the pendant.

I looked for her but had no idea where she might be after 46 years.

3 thoughts on “The Clay Pendant by Leslie Sittner

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