The Abbey Pottery is operated by Father Iain Highet, who makes stoneware and porcelain pots in a wide variety of styles using both gas and wood-fired kilns. At present the pottery is not available for sale, but please enjoy the images of pots shown here as well as the text written by Father Iain.|
It is a privilege to make pottery in the context of the monastery. The monastery is like a small village, offering so many immediate uses and places for pots –refectory, kitchen, guest houses, greenhouse, gardens, sanctuary. The monastery is also a whole world, and so provides many sources of creative inspiration – ponds, fields, woods, gardens, animals, liturgy, people, the rhythms of God in creation. I feel the rhythm and scale of life lived according to the order of the monastery reflected in the pottery, so that it becomes for me a Eucharistic medium expressing the creative union of natural, human and liturgical cycles, a way of relating Life to God.
I return to dust and ash every time I begin.
With clay, as perhaps with every creative work, the whole process moves from passion through death to resurrection. The passion of inspiration and discipline, serendipity and technique. Wedging clay, centering on the wheel, throwing, forming and trimming the pot. Death begins with drying, waiting, bisque firing, and ends with glazing, as if preparing for burial. Burial in the tomb, the kiln, a second firing, waiting to cool. You never know exactly what will come out from the firing, so many factors are involved: not only the particular combination of clay type, pot form, and glaze mixture, but also the weather of that particular day, atmosphere both inside and outside the kiln. But when you open the kiln, what a surprise, always a surprise. Resurrection is a birth to new life.
A WINTER REFLECTION
A thin skin of ice on the pond in the morning. A nest of snow cupped in the crotch of a red oak tree. Flat whorls of lichen on granite rock: from a distance, grey on grey; close-up, explosions of yellow, green and purple trees, sometimes blossoming pink and red. I kneel on moss at pond’s edge to sink my parched hands into the water. My hands dry, exfoliating in clay and ashes. I sweep the ash up from inside the kiln to make a glaze, mix it with rock ground down to dust, sometimes rust from the old farm tool by the barn, or copper flakes brushed from the roof spout. I see a deep blue-green stone at the bottom of the pond. The bells ring out calling us to pray. Fire lifts out the blue-green gem shining. I place it in my basket and know what to make today.
The full red moon rising over trees. Sky burning down to embers, orange and blue. Lie down in the field in the dark after Compline, listen. A whole world like a seed waking open. The horizon is the lip of a bowl, undulating maybe, or alternating sharp ridges, tree-lines, or smooth open fields. A whole world contained in the palm of your hands, a particular world, this one here, its textures and colors and forms fitting you like your own favorite gloves. Look inside. Deep inside, at the bottom of the valley is a pool, collecting water, tea, or maybe coffee. There are no handles for this kind of experience.
You take it whole or not at all. Drink in the morning. A favorite cup.
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