An artisan tilts her red-figure vase and leans back for a better look. As potter, she blends the artistic and decorative to the commercial and functional. She facilitates the most basic need to store and serve food while delivering beauty to homes and businesses.
She wears purple, the color of royalty, and yet she labors with her hands. She dresses practically, a bandana holding up her hair, a scarf around her waist. And with a simple, colorful, large-beaded necklace, she turns function into style. She is both an aestheticist and a utilitarian.
The woman and her colleagues work on red-figured vases. Developed by the Greeks and adapted by the Etruscans, this technique was arguably the height of ceramic expression in the Greco-Roman world. Earlier black-figure pottery displayed oddly posed subjects similar to the beautiful but stiff, repetitive figures of Egyptian art. Red-figure innovations freed artists to add new perspectives, angles and details to the human form.
This craftswoman is finishing a scene with a seated, winged figure, possibly Turan, the Etruscan goddess of love. The man working beside her sketches a stylized fern. It’s not clear that Etruscan women engaged in employed work. There is still debate among scholars about the civil rights women of Etruria enjoyed, but most agree they possessed more social freedom and status than women in other city-states.
Scandalized Greek and Roman historians recorded that Etruscan women showed as much of their bodies as men and walked without escorts in the streets. Etruscan ceramics and funerary art also reveal more gender equity than elsewhere in the Greco-Roman world, depicting women attending events, celebrating at banquets and dancing. Erotic art portrays women in graphic sexual acts as well as in moments of tender intimacy.
After a satisfying day of productive, creative work, this woman may wash off the clay, dust and glazes in a bathhouse before escorting herself home. A day well spent making both money and beauty.
Eight of Coins’ Shadow
When we struggle with the shadow of the Eight of Coins, we reassess one of the most important and time consuming parts of our lives: work. How enjoyable is our work? What do we love about it? Does it depress us or cause anxiety? These are questions that differ from person to person, as does the follow-up question: What will we do about it?
Studies of satisfaction at work suggest people are happiest when fair compensation is combined with control over the work. It’s a simple formula that’s surprisingly hard to find. When we work toward reachable goals and can pay our bills, work is satisfying. When we use our skills toward a meaningful end, we feel also empowered.
Behavioral science reminds us that the process matters more to our happiness than the acquisition of things (cars, money, lovers, clothes). We find happiness in the process of achievement. It’s why some people can’t stop shopping. They don;t need new clothes, but the experience of acquiring them becomes obsessive. It’s nice to reach the goal (Six of Wands), and we should enjoy it, but if the process was painful or unpleasant or counterproductive, the victory may be hollow (Seven of Coins).
Incidentally, this also explains why lottery winners end up dejected and lonely. It’s not that money doesn’t buy happiness. It’s that buying stuff doesn’t buy happiness. Invest that money in engagement – in experiencing something with a beginning, a struggle, a goal and a conclusion – and that lotto winner may find that money does buy happiness after all.
Luckily for us, we don’t need to win the lottery to engage ourselves in meaningful and challenging activities. The Eight of Coins encourages us to find this in our work.