Chalices and Patens


We just got another phone call from a local church in DePere, WI ordering 2 chalices and 2 pattens.  This order has a special twist, design wise, though, that has John and I working our brains overtime.

The pastor asked us to make a chalice with a divider in the middle so that both wine and grape juice can be offered for communion.  I had him explain why they wanted a chalice with two separate liquids in it and describe how people would sip the wine? Oh, no, he said, it’s like a bowl and the people dip the wafer in the wine (grape juice) will be used, called intincture.

The biggest headache is the technical aspects of such a request.  It’s all about drying, shrinking and warping, so it’s not as simple as putting a piece of clay in the middle.

So, when a potter throws a piece, energy from the spinning wheel is transferred to the clay, the energy from the potter’s hands is transmitted to the clay.  When it dries, it slowly unwinds, and then as it is fired the first and second time, it keeps on doing it.

Ordinarily, it is so imperceptible we don’t see it.  BUT, when there is a crack that is curved….it’s from improper drying, or badly attached something.  When pieces that were attached come apart: bad attaching.  Take a look sometimes at handles on handmade mugs or pitchers, sometimes they are slightly off center…it’s the torque, the energy stored in the clay from the wedging and throwing, that is being released.  A technically advanced potter will know how to work with that energy and make the proper adjustments.

See?  Ordering something as simple as a chalice with a piece of clay providing the barrier in the middle is not easy.  It takes time to solve this problem.  That is one of the reasons why we have to charge so much.  The other is that John has 42 years in clay, and you are paying for his expertise.

And then, the sticky subject of cost.  We know everyone is careful these days, we are too.  But we also can’t work for free.  So, the dilemma?  Find the middle road.  Negotiate.  Honor each other’s needs find a way to do it.  We’d rather do it that way.




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