Recently a priest (to be) contacted me, asking if I would make him a communion set for his ordination, (chalice, paten, cruets and tray). It was a happy surprise for me as I don’t get to make these too often. I really enjoy making the chalice form, and I am taken with the challenge of making the set work as one.
I grew up Catholic, and spent every Sunday sitting at Mass, half listening and half with my mind submerged in the liturgical art that filled the church. The stained glass windows intrigued me… I would get lost in the ornate compositions, detailed with jewel-like buttons of glass… round blobs of color, bulging from the otherwise flat pane glass. I stared intently at the gold chalice, plate, and candlesticks on the altar. I walked up nervously when asked to bring the gifts of water and wine to the altar… sensing how it felt in my hands, hoping I would not spill any. All of this and more, I remember so clearly.
As I matured I began to ask why is everything gold when the priest’s homily was telling us about this rebel Jesus, who turned the money changers tables in the temple. This Jesus who spoke of the poor and marginalized. This Jesus who embodied simplicity. So in light of this I began make this chalice and plate sans gold. I wanted it to speak of transcendence, and not purely a focus on the object itself. I wanted it to be grounded yet lead your eyes upward. I chose porcelain, a pure white, which has the ability to capture the glassy jewel-like quality of the glaze.
I decided to make this a project of mine when I was studying at Alfred University… it became my senior thesis. After graduation I made quite a few sets for churches. Now many years later it is nice to revisit these forms as a more experienced potter… they seem to be a bit more colorful than the originals from my college days.