It's a perfect New England Winter day as I'm writing this. Martin Luther King Day to be more specific and I just took a break from some office work to walk out to the mailbox. Sometimes this is my only outdoor moment on days when I'm working in the studio, and so I try to soak in all the sights and sounds during that walk across the gravel driveway. We had our first snow last night, although less than 2" the earth is now covered in a blanket of white. My walk now illuminated for the world in footsteps and as I nuzzled into my hoodie for the walk back to the building I heard the faintest bird calls and gazed up to see nothing short of a river of starlings (this is my best guess anyways) making their way across the sky passing over the studio roof. I stood there in awe (as I typically do when witnessing nature) with a big smile and despite beginning to shiver feet firmly planted determined to wait for the last bird to fly over.
I'm firm on one thing, divine timing. I've held the notion over the years that 'hind sight is always 20/20' and often get through difficult times with that mantra in mind, eager to look back to understand the 'why's' of it all. I could have walked out to get the mail anytime today, those birds could have flown over at any time, but I was compelled to get the mail at the exact same moment as the birds flew and I was afforded the opportunity to connect with nature and my place in a flash of grace.
Making pottery is very much about timing (maybe not divine but nonetheless). There is a process to the making of work and then timing the next stages of finishing is crucial to making successful pots. Wet pots sit for a few days up to a week under plastic until they reach what we describe as a 'leather hard' or 'cheese hard' stage at which point they can be at either end of that spectrum meaning a bit more soft or a tad more on the dry side. At this stage they are ready for trimming which subtracts excess clay and cleans the pot up allowing for a stable foot, carving, attaching a handle or any other decorative surface treatments also happen at this stage. Trimming is one of my favorite stages of the making process as it is not a messy or wet process but rather allows me to refine the form and begin to make decisions about the desired end result. Once the pots are trimmed they must sit until they become 'bone dry' in order that they can be fired the first time through the kiln without explosions due to any contained moisture.
Seeing a piece of clay through the stages of pottery making from lump of clay to finished pot is nothing short of awesome. Twenty years has not dulled my love for the craft but given me such reverence for the process and my place in it, timing, creativity, vision, intuition, determination and so much more goes in to making each unique piece. It is often assumed that my own cupboards are filled with my pots, and while I do fall in love with a few and take them home, I have a rather small and eclectic mix of cups and bowls at home. I never tire of my second passion which is cooking and there is nothing better than eating homemade food out of a handmade pot. It connects us with tradition, culture and each other in a way that is unmatched.
Recently my soon to be brother-in-law made a lovely vegan lentil soup just for me. This kind of gesture is so close to my heart as my family connected through the making of food and eating meals together growing up. That soup was so delicious and since he sent me home with some ingredients I was compelled to make my own version. You can find the recipe below.
I'd love to hear about a favorite handmade pot that you own and how you use it in your home. Please comment on this post or post a pic on instagram and tag @TheVeganPotter so we can connect with one another with our love of pottery!
Vegan Lentil Soup
1 cup black lentils (also called French lentils)
2 cups baby kale leaves
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced
1/2 red pepper diced
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
8-10 cups veggie broth of your choice (8 if you like thicker soup, 10 if you like more broth)
5 cloves garlic minced
1 tbl olive oil
In a medium sized stock pot sautee onions, garlic, carrots and pepper in olive oil. Add salt, pepper and cumin and stir until onions appear transparent. Add veggie broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until lentils are nearly cooked through, add kale leaves and cover until lentils are soft.
If you own an immersion blender (handheld) you can remove 1/3 of the soup, blend and add back in to thicken the soup. Serve in your favorite handmade bowl and enjoy!