“Search is what we know. Someone becomes old – that’s when they think they’ve arrived… we are not like that… we are the opposite… MacKenzie-Childs wasn’t the important thing… the important thing was love and home.”
– Victoria MacKenzie Childs
First things first, if you haven’t already guessed, one thing you MUST know about your go-go goofy girl, Chick Chop Suey, is that, well, she adores her artsy-fartsy-arts-A-LOT; particularly, the kind of art that reveals understated erudition blended with measured atonement of long lost wisdom and perfectly packaged inside a tincture of merriment. So when the divine mother of such “fat cat” criterion, Victoria MacKenzie Childs, blew into Clawson, Michigan one early morning in May, Chick Chop Suey just had to pounce, pretty-please-play and pitter-pitter-pat with her favorite creative itty-bitty kitty. (Oh my goodness, it really happened! I still have to pinch myself.)
One, two, three: jump... back in time, that is. It was a glorious spring morning in the upper Midwest; the sun slow-poking me on the snout as if beckoning me to play whilst the robins engaged in their sing-song dance with Madame Plumpy Earth. However, my head swirled with measured indifference to it all. I had a very important business that morning. Yes indeed! So in a wink and blink I leapt out of bed and whisked the sandy deep sheep sleep from eyes as my morning “Cuppa Lucky” stood in attention awaiting my willingness to imbibe her drink. “Not today, Cuppa!” Miss C.C.S. Fancypants has pleasing powder-puffs to fluff; in particular, the fun brain behind my treasured contemporary household idols, Miss Victoria MacKenzie Childs, herself. Clawson, Michigan here I come! (Pen in hand.)
I sailed away into the epitome of happy (
Leon and Lulu’s) and with a soft shoe step and headed straightaway to the back of the store where I was kindly offered the most delightful cup of morning brew (served proudly in a precious hand-painted tea cup, no less.) How wonderful! Mister W. Disney would have taken great joy in such flawless delivery of magical perfection. I was deeply engaged, lapping it up when she popped into sight. With an adorable rainbow tilt, impish grin and blinking double diamond eyes, she outstretched her tender hand toward me. “I’m Victoria!” she said. By golly, if I hadn’t expected her arrival, I could have easily mistaken the sinewy little outfit as a certifiable pixie! And that’s a fact, Jack (or Jill).
However, upon the touch, her hands hijacked my insatiable curiosity and took me for a ride. Fascinated, I wondered how such lean little spindles could manipulate such onerous, hard blocks of clay to ‘loppy’ perfection. How these tools naturally born of precision and brainy-brain reason could irrigate such freedom from inside the silent slop atop her potters wheel. I turned to look at the whole (fractional amount) of her, whereupon I was rightfully overcome with a genuine wave of grace. If only I could explain her to you. You see when one catches the essence of Victoria, it is like gazing into a kaleidoscope; a Polaroid of color snapped slightly out of time and space. She is a treasure steeped from a dream world. And her art? Brilliantly served by enchanted hands. I wondered from whom, from where, from what place these obvious skill sets took direction.
“It’s more of a transparency rather than ego; it is a place where you let go and become a child. In a way, I have to be somewhat outside of myself to make comments about my self and our works … You see, the work is ever flowing and an unconscious decision; it is a walking analogy. Richard and I have an art slogan: ‘Soul heart, beauty and transparency.’ Our art is a spiritual ideal and not materialistic. The creative process is an evolution and ever-evolving. It flows. When one rediscovers art, the world takes it…. I have every tool I need at my fingertips. When I create, I close my eyes and reclaim the inner child and there is a wisdom to that…then I cover it with gown up ways - that’s the heart that grabs the public. (This is me!) My art becomes somebody else’s word in their poem; their own unique expression (in their home) in their life.”
“I used to be troubled by the thought that there were too many things in this world… I wished it was not so. But then one day Richard said to me,”
“Think of it like this, Victoria – think of our art as words…as a transitory medium in which ideas are expressed.”
“It is an inspiration… and did you know that the definition of inspiration means breath? Art is life inspired… (breathing, living words)…. The combination of art and science is pinnacle… together, they achieve perfection. So, now, I believe, that there are not too many opaque things, but rather, "infinite inward and outward breaths of inspiration," a poem part, a word, a thought that moves the world beyond its heavy self.”
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious - the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” - Albert Einstein
Whoa Nellie! Chick Chop Suey was going to have to don her hefty thinking cap because this good fortune was one sharp cookie. Phooey Suey couldn’t help it; some stunning parallels jack-knifed right before my eyes. Indeed, my hopelessly patterned-driven mind steered me into the fated past and begged me to crack-open my dusty “B-I-B-L-E – Yes, that’s the book for me!” in an effort to revisit Genesis; perhaps some interesting artful iconography could be noted within the creationist theory, moreover, for the perpetual sinner that I am, it couldn’t hurt to mull over the cryptic nature of Abraham’s beloved. On second thought, maybe later. Anyway, suffice it to say that imagery remained intact, suspended in my whack-o mind; those two, Eloheim and Victoria birthing creation, breathing inspiration into clay. Together they played with poetic life!
“The true and loving soul acts like a bee which extracts the sweetness of many flowers to make its honey.” - Meister Eckhart, Living Philosophies
I wondered next how she watered her brilliantly blooming mind. What bees buzzed in her bonnet? So I asked Mary, Mary err… Victoria, about other art forms, particularly music… how does her garden grow?
“I take great pleasure in the music of the Yankee (the antique ferryboat upon which she and Richard dwell) the creaking of the ropes, banging of the waves up against the hull… the whole of the experience, to think of it… sends chills up my spine. We have a man who lives on the boat. He is a pianist. And when I walk in while he’s practicing, I am truly overwhelmed by his gift. (I fancy) music mixtures of the sphere.”
What tha? The music of the play of life? Chop Suey wouldn’t have guessed it! But then again, Chick Chop Suey is not Victoria MacKenzie Childs! I soon found out that a magnificent gift was about to be bestowed upon me. If only I would take a moment to listen. (A slow learner, it took me days to digest! Trust me.) However, there it was! A fullness ripened, a gift of the sublime; mellow words wrapped within sage-old philosophy expressed amid my modern day Kenmore appliances.
“The experience around the home… the whole experience of the home… is within the embrace.” – Victoria MacKenzie Childs
“I appreciate everything in my own experience. I do not wish to be living in the past or future… it’s all about now. Not very long ago, I made public appearance in Des Moines where I came upon a vintage dress which reminded me of 4-H. When I looked upon it, I had ‘a moment’ where I could appreciate the past. (She looks into the space beyond me and honored its majesty.) When I think of it, I guess… I’m not really of the world even though I am in it. Consciousness can create heaven, or hell. It is of your choosing. The now is important to me. I am ageless. Make the now your home.”
The Now? You’re home? And actually constructed of impressions? What a positively curious thought, Alice! MY real life home-ly impressions? A certifiable three ring circus starring two energetic adorable little clowns committing tricks on artist-writer-camp-kooky whilst an ever-patient hunka-hunka-ring-master skillfully navigates show. I wonder what Victoria would have to say about the Ringling Brothers? Hmm, better yet. What does she feel about dwellings of the Love Boat variety… ah, now there’s a question Chop Suey can most certainly deliver. Let’s see, shall we?
On the evolution of home: “Home is where your thoughts can’t be taken away. I loved the thought of living on a boat because of the idea it represents. Turning thoughts into things. You see, there was a time when we lived in an apartment in New York City. (It was so tiny.) You could literally open the ice box with toes whilst in bed. As for me, I could have a lap for a studio. However, Richard needed space. One day Richard was on a walk with Mr. Brown and Pinky. He came home and told me that he just walked past open house, a carriage house.
“Why don’t we look into getting a carriage house, Victoria?” he said to me.
“I knew immediately that the prospect would be very expensive in New York City and we felt we should be in New York. (Dreamily breathing in the refreshing air of excitement…) When you’re there, it’s yours! However, there are too few carriage houses in the city, therefore they are very pricey. And we couldn’t do that. So we decided to just list the qualities of a home? That way, we could expand it to impressions…”
“When you do that… when you take away all the walls, all the birds in the sky, you are left with infinity… an open, huge, bigness of space.”
(Fast forward a wrinkle in time, when Richard and Victoria sat eating at an outdoor café in upstate New York when they ran into an old friend. It was a serendipitous encounter as he mentioned to them that he was living on a boat. Victoria was struck with the thought…)
“We should live on a boat.”
“Richard at first did not think so. He did not want to wake up in the morning and hit his head on the ceiling. However, I got right to work. I did some research and got copies of all the boats and harbors in the United States… I learned the terminology and studied with intensity. I learned that commercial vessels sold for a song after they left a fleet. You see, they wanted to get rid of them… like a hot potato. I called people from all over the world. The only problem was that we had to find a place where we could dock it. Every door (every gate to every pier) slammed at first because New York harbors were not allowed for living space and when we finally did come across one, it was cost prohibitive.”
“There goes that idea.” I thought.
“After a while, I realized that this ‘roller coaster ride’ did not fit into our qualities of home. I thought to myself, ‘Better let go of that one.’ Two days into my truce, we received a call from a man asking if we were looking to own a ferryboat. (We used to visit Nantucket during the summers and ride the ferryboat. So his offering brought some measure of nostalgia to the idea of home.) So I decided I would visit the (vintage) boat. I put on my skates and skated down to Tribeca, right up to the gang plank where I found a gnarly looking seaman hanging out. I asked him, ‘Is this boat for sale?’ (To which he responded in affirmation) ‘I’ll take it!’ she said. Now all we had to do was figure out how pay for it. And can you believe that we found an old, forgotten annuity that yielded exactly one nickel over the amount we settled upon for the boat? You see your thoughts work life out like that.”
“At our store in New York, we had a piano but I used to tell our employees that it was only for practice… you see, the beauty is within the practice. You have to be able to recognize the difference of things.” – Victoria MacKenzie Childs
Warning, detrimental detour fast approaching as Victoria approached the unthinkable; the certain death of their last names! She carefully detailed how a prodigal baby of Victoria and Richard transferred into the hands of a nameless poo-poo-party-platter, delivering a devastating blow in the form of a face-slapping corporate ledger domain. It all transpired so fast! The artful dynamic-duo were shocked to discover that within a matter of minutes they had lost everything, their bodies, stores and ultimately their whole life they had so lovingly built from the ground up. Moreover, the use of their own names was called into question.
Chop Suey swallowed that horrendous thought only after chewing with disorderly disdain the prickly ick. You see, usurping the identity of an artist is akin to murdering the very sanctity of the soul, extinguishing the life-enhancing flame which flickers shadows of the freedom. Super huffed and definitely fluffed, I looked upon Victoria with hound dog eyes welling with compassionate understanding. “Tell me there’s a happily ever after.” My heart just couldn’t take it! However, she sauntered along like Mary Poppins dolling out spoonfuls of sugar.
“We couldn’t go where we wanted to go. We had 400 people working for us, who we loved very much… all taken away. We were very disheartened.”
“However at that moment in time, I realized at that time, there is no death. You can still be in your thoughts even in physical death. After all, matter doesn’t matter and you have to practice what you preach. The past was lost.”
“Sometimes I would be sad and then one day I was watching my dogs play.”
She unfolded a story which touched my heart. Pinky (her mini wire-haired dachshund) was playing with a toy while the frisky, Mr. Brown, the older (and standard of the two) repeatedly snatched the darn thing from Pinky’s petite paws. Jealous, Mr. Brown fell victim to unchecked emotion. (Ironic, indeed!) Anyway, Victoria watched the play with intense curiosity. She nearly interfered when suddenly she bore witness to a profound performance directed by Pinky herself. You see, Pinky tricked Mr. Brown as she began to play with the air; pretending to toss and dance with an invisible delight. In fact, Pinky had created something that no one, no matter how crafty, could ever snatch. The lesson? (A bow-wow-zer moment, indeed!)
“No one can take away play from you. Resolution, hurt, history… at that moment I learned a profound lesson from Pinky. I am not going to give up. We had to let go and allow freedom to play. That is the fountain of creativity.”
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” - Mother Teresa
Troubled, this sick Chick was troubled indeed! I wondered how this could happen, how such an enlightened race of glorified prehensile tails could so easily inhale sweetness without so much as an expression of gratitude. As if to devour big bananas and then casually toss the stinking peel behind; hearty pedestrians tripping up languid strollers without complaint or care.
“The new owners flexed their muscles and laid claims of control (over their employees.) The people, I have found, are the source of the ability for fear tactics to work. However, they would NOT work on me! I am not a good subject for terrorism to try its wits upon.”
“It is very easy to manipulate thought that is not well grounded in principle. Perhaps, even ‘faith’ is not enough. Only deep understanding can work as an underpinning for strength and growth… deep roots. Through the years, I’ve found that most people, not all, are swayed by the breezes that come in with even the smallest suggestions of fear.”
“The world has positioned money, medicine and materialism above morality. Many fall for it, at least until the sting of it spears their hearts. It is only when it is "too late" that they awake. They do, though, and they HAVE. I am sorry for them, but we . . . we are free. I am grateful that I can say, I have had the utmost trial, and I NEVER gave in to the cheap way out. I am not "dead right," I am just quietly, gratefully, in the right way as far as I know it to be. This is my strength and my freedom. Divine Love . . . it reaches farther than the human eye can see.”
“MacKenzie-Childs was a delicious place. It was beautiful there. It was like working in a park, . . . heavenly, really.” – Victoria MacKenzie Childs
I couldn’t help but wonder what the future held for such a sugary shaman who has lived to experience so much. I knew that she began her artful career in theatre and I was insanely curious to see if she had thoughts of ending there. After all, she does appear to epitomize the very values of sacred geometry, I mean, having no apparent beginning and no end. Therefore, Chop Suey ended the morning meeting quoting her other main event, the bee’s knees of poetic art himself,
Marc Chagall, “I adore the theater and I am a painter. I think the two are made for a marriage of love. I will give all my soul to prove this once more.” Would she, could she feel the same… could she, would she play once again? (In theatre, that is.)
On the theatre: “I left the theatre as an undergrad. You see, there was a movement at the time which was (rooted in) self exploration.”
Victoria painted me a picture of her staged encounters; group sessions of mind-numbing psychology which she ultimately believed, robbed the artist of the child.
“It was too intellectualized. I found it to be harmful. (Organized thought) got in the way of play.”
At that point, Ms. MacKenzie left the theatre to explore painting only to find that most students “were painting themselves into a corner… not free thinking enough… (there was) still too much analyzing.” So she crossed the hall to the pottery studio where she instantly found common ground.
“They were people, just trying to make pots… that’s it! It was so refreshing. It reminded me of being in 4-H. Not being is something important to me.”
I wondered if perhaps Victoria MacKenzie Childs needed to be somewhat hidden in order “to be.” A puzzling genetic identity X-factor which we creative types share and share alike. (Sigh!) However, at that point she changed courses circling my flight back to her life known as MacKenzie Childs.
“We saw our stores as a performance… it was like being at the theatre every day.”
Referencing Shakespeare she quotes, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players…”
“We are just the performers. … I am reminded of Steven Wright. In one of his sketches he professes to have a favorite seashell collection saying which is so big and so complete that he has to keep it on the beaches of the world. You see… you have it… you already have it all!”
“As far as working again in theatre, who knows? I wouldn’t mind. I’ve learned not to outline. If you treasure something unconsciously, God knows, the creator knows what’s next.”
I closed my notebook now filled with pages of crafty symbolism drawn from infinity and swirled together in universal consciousness. I had to go home straightaway and let it set in, like Jello salad complimenting my yummy-mummy homemade meal. My garden seemed to be the perfect kitschy-kitchen for such activities. Mindlessly, I plopped down across from a pot of pansies grounding themselves upon my thoughts. I took notice of their drooping melodies.
These hush-puppies were not happy. Not at all! In fact, these babies were wilting under the king-daddy umbrella sheltering the lonely table. Just then the sky darkened and gave a good rumble as gently, the rain began to tumble. Victoria’s “Perfect Pinky Moment” came to mind and Chop Suey had the thought, “Perhaps the pansies would better off in the sun and wind and rain… maybe, one must stop coveting the very thing which is intended to grow and suffer and ultimately, transform.” Yes, I do believe that my pansies desired to experience life fully. They were telling me so. And far be it for this Chicken to deny life. So bequething liberty, I recognized their inherent rights to freedom and placed the pot directly under the downpour.
Drenched with emotion, I was reminded of how important faith is to artists, to all people. I now believe that my pansies’ desire “to be” will deliver them upon the course of natural order. After all, Victoria speaks so that we can remember; that the miraculous breath of life comes from the moment of creation, the “being” discovered whilst weathering the windy storms. I reckon that my pansies perfectly exemplify what Ms. MacKenzie Childs has so generously blossomed for the world, thought things; a pot of pansies blooming under cheerful rays of the sunshine and reaching ever inward to drink up the soaking rain. No matter, as she defines entirely the natural art in life; the inspiration that speaks to our souls and beckons us to grow wild and free.
Note: Victoria and Richard MacKenzie Childs curious “thought things” can be purchased in stores located throughout the US. To find locations near you or to read more about their grand adventures, visit their website at http://www.victoriaandrichard.com
Published on Dec 31, 1969