Today while on a writing workshop, I enjoyed Benedictine hospitality. I drank a cup of tea in the Japanese style, then demolished a piece of homemade custard pie served on a handmade plate and garnished with strawberries. Gift upon gift!
The Fire that Produces Pottery
While we enjoyed our tea, Master Potter, Richard Bresnahan, sat with us and explained the chemistry of glazes, the physics of fire, and the temperature control necessary to create St. John’s Pottery. The conversation was relaxed, wide-ranging and fascinating.
A small group of us toured the intimate studio. We saw the mound of raw clay which was dug out of the nearby ground, and the series of rudimentary vats and machines used to wash the clay. The potter and an apprentice sat at wheels throwing pots. Other workers moved long boards loaded with clay objects from rack to rack.
Steven Lemke showed us a picture of the wood-fired kiln (which is nearby, housed in a shed). It is the largest kiln of its kind in North America. It takes a year for the potters to create the thousands of clay pieces which are loaded into the kiln’s three chambers. It takes a year to chop the wood which feeds the fire!
Steven described how the fire is lit after a ceremonial purification and blessing. The fire is then stoked for more than a week.
Writing Workshops at Collegeville Institute
I’m at Collegeville Institute which is part of St. John’s University, near St. Cloud, Minnesota. I’m attending a week-long writing workshop. There are a dozen writers here, working independently and sharing our evenings. We are all especially interested in writing about the life of faith, and see our writing as a vocation. I am so grateful for this place, and the important work it does!
If you’re in the St. Cloud, Minnesota area, or are particularly interested in pottery, I encourage you to tour the pottery studio. There’s lots of info at the website, and contact information. If I could, I’d return at the end of September to see the lighting ceremony.
The Benedictines excel at hospitality. If you need a dose of the real thing, I encourage you to look up the Benedictine community nearest you. You might discover a hidden treasure.