“A number of years ago I was teaching a seminary course called “Pottery and Proclamation.” One woman had recently lost her partner to cancer
and was mourning the loss of someone incredibly important to her.As she learned how to make pots, she decided it would be powerful for her to make a pot to hold her partner’s ashes. There is an understanding in Native American cultures that you’re making pots out of your ancestors. We all become part of the earth, so when that earth is used to make pots, the pots actually have bits of our ancestors. So she and I talked about sifting some of her partner’s ashes into the clay to make the vessel that would then hold the rest
of them.We decided to meet at Northern Clay Center to make this vessel in the middle of the day, because we thought it would be a quieter time. In fact, there was a children’s class in the next room and we could hear their laughter.
While we listened to the noise of children, we sifted some of the ashes into the clay and threw a simple container on the wheel. The woman had only been working with clay for a few weeks, and it was as though the clay just threw itself, as though our hands were barely there. The vessel took shape in a wonderful, peaceful way. And now it’s in her house — this container that is made of this person whom she loved so much.
To hear those children’s voices while I was making a piece with someone whom I didn’t know well, yet was sharing this intimate part of her life, I felt like, “Oh, this is peace. This is a perfect moment.” Perfect in a messy, confusing, emotional sort of way, and I guess that that’s what makes the most sense to me.”
Kelly Connole teaches ceramics and metal smithing at Carleton College.
“There is something about laughter and playfulness that opens up the hope of a peaceful life.”
Kelly Connole shares a short story about her involvement in the Empty Bowls project.
Kelly Connole’s full podcast.