Friday, May 3, 2013

Sacred vessels...

...what are they really?  And does this apply to only those with a religious reference?  I doubt it.

I have been thinking about this lately and can't really say why, other than my studio work is influencing these thoughts that seem to be with me often, both in and outside the studio.  And I doubt I am alone as I look around and see the work by so many other potters who are obviously influenced and inspired by vessel making, and how these forms might serve us well beyond the physical.

For me, and thinking of how they are connected to things religious, goes way back.  I remember as a young boy, being raised catholic, looking wide-eyed at the large chalice's (called a monstrance) being carried through the church during procession, with golden rays radiating from the core, holding something sacred encased in glass.  Or more common, the chalice used during mass and holding the wine.  But then again, on a more intimate, family level, remembering dinners at home with my family where large pasta bowls (functional vessels) were passed around the table for the sharing of food.  While not the same as the chalice at church, these bowls still contained our nourishment, and while maybe not the nourishment of our souls, nourishment of our bodies nonetheless.  Sacred bowls?  Not sure, but as I recall the warmth of the meal with family I can certainly claim it was a type of 'sacred' event.  

And then, of course, the vessels used in ritual and everyday living in cultures outside of our own, and as examples I am thinking of the pre-Columbian pots in all their glory, or the pottery of the Amazon that holds chicha (the masticated beverage common to the rainforest), each of which helps us better understand the values and norms of people from another time and another land.  Forms that radiate energy from within, and help us appreciate a cultural ethos of a people, even when these are the most utilitarian of forms.  Powerful work, and for me, sacred vessels as they transcend the physicality of form and suggest something much greater beyond the serving of food.

So, where am I going with all of this?  Not sure exactly, except to say that the very idea of a sacred vessel takes on many meanings, at least for me, and is grist for the mill when contemplating the many vessels I see or make. As a potter, and one who makes both functional and sculptural vessels, it is no surprise that the very idea of a sacred vessel and its various meanings might resonate for me on so many levels, and extend far beyond the religious, and moreso into our everyday lives.  I only hope the forms I make provide the respect I feel for the vessel form and how they touch our lives and serve as personal reference and metaphor for all we believe.  If these forms are made with honesty and vision, whether utilitarian or not, they indeed become a type of sacred vessel on a most intimate and personal level.

sculptural vessel form in-process

Amazonian mucawa used for the drinking of chicha

footed pre-Columbian vessel

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