Sankt Peter Ording: Out of the Earth, Into the Fire

The kiln is still cooling, I can't quite open it yet. But I thought I would show you these two North Sea beach pictures that I took in the winter of 2002 - 2003 while still living Northern Germany. It is the national park beach at St. Peter Ording, where, during ebb, the water goes out over 3 kilometers, and comes back in during tide. You have to be very careful when walking on this beach. The incoming tide, which is deceptively slow, can catch you -- many people have lost their lives in the North Sea this way. It is particularly dangerous in the winter, when fog rolls in, and you can lose your orientation completely.

But if you pay attention and understand Nature's rules, it is one of the most unusually beautiful beaches you can imagine. Fresh and breezy in the summer; haunting and stark in the winter. When I took my sister to St. Peter Ording one time, she said " I feel like I am in the middle of a National Geographic photo shoot." Indeed.

What does St. Peter Ording have to do with ceramics?

Quite simply, the sand. I collected sand from this beach, which I still use in some glazes. The quartz and silica content of the sand is high, so I experiment with the sand, replacing a portion of the quartz in the glaze recipe with it. Since the sand contains other impurities, it reacts differently than quartz, and one (as usual) never knows the outcome, until the oven is opened.

But this is an example of how the potter's world relies on the natural world to create new and beautiful things.

You see, pottery is a metaphor for life. It requires earth (clay), water (to make the clay pliable), air (to dry the clay), and fire (to solidify the clay). All the elements are present.

And the role (and luxury) of the studio potter, in my opinion, is not only to rely on things she knows works; it is to risk the things which might or might not work to get unexpected results.

To keep moving. To keep going. To push further. To take risks, and learn from errors.

And to see the possibilities and seize them, even though they are invisible to all those around you.

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