Saint John's Magazine Winter/Spring 2020

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Saint John’s Pottery celebrates 40th anniversary with Johanna Kiln’s fullest firing It had all the trappings of a 300-member family reunion, so perhaps it was only fitting that there was a decidedly celebratory vibe to the 40th anniversary lighting ceremony and firing of the Johanna Kiln at The Saint John’s Pottery. “This is a wonderful family that has come on this wonderful day,” said Richard Bresnahan ’76, Saint John’s University’s Artist-In-Residence and director of The Saint John’s Pottery since its inception in 1979.

“People often ask ‘How many pieces are in the kiln?’ We stopped counting at 12,000,” Bresnahan said. “This is the fullest firing that we’ve ever had in 40 years at Saint John’s.” The event was full in other ways as well. The assembled crowd paid tribute to kiln namesake Sister Johanna Becker, OSB, and other prominent benefactors of The Saint John’s Pottery.

“This is the 25th anniversary of the Johanna Kiln,” Bresnahan said, “so you’re here for a very special day.”

“As we remember Sister Johanna, whose name this kiln bears, fill our hearts with warm gratitude and affection for her compassionate, passionate commitment to artistic beauty,” said Saint John’s Abbot John Klassen ’71, OSB, who delivered the blessing.

The Oct. 18 lighting ceremony kicked off a 10-day firing of the largest wood-burning kiln in North America. Two years of planning went into the firing, along with local clay and glaze materials and firewood gathered from the Saint John’s Abbey Arboretum.

“The Pottery could not be possible without the monastery, and it could not be possible without this university,” added Bresnahan, whose wife Colette lit the kiln’s first chamber. “Their care and deep belief in an eco-mutual world is really the heart and soul of this studio.”

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