Search this Site

(Enter your email address)


 Subscribe in a reader

You can also subscribe to follow the comments.

Join us on Facebook



Normandy is a ceramic artist and she shares her love and insight found in working with clay. She delights in the spiritual discipline of committing to the task in her hands. She offers some photos as proof.

Clay is such a responsive material. Each choice and touch is in some way evident in the finished vessel, from its infancy as a mound of wet clay in my hand, to the finished vessel: glazed, fired, and functioning in the world. The process of making ceramic vessels by hand is rich in metaphors for ourselves and spiritual lives. Even the words potters use to describe a pot relates to our bodies: lip, foot, handle. The vessels of our lives are filled with our desires, relationships, and beliefs as surely as the mug in my hand is filled with coffee. With all things, form follows function.

I have come to see that the discipline required of a studio practice has much in common with the tenacity, humility, and gratitude required for a spiritual practice. The word “practice” is what ties the two together in my mind. Practice is the action of doing something, executing, and often in a habitual way. Through hours of forming pots in the studio over the past ten years, I feel as though I am just beginning to make the kind of pots I want to be making. The small achievements I’ve had have been a partnership between me and the Lord. The products of these efforts often disappear from my awareness into other people’s homes to be used and loved, broken and discarded – I will never know.

My spiritual life feels most fulfilling when I bring to it a similar sense of habitual active doing. Each day is an opportunity to take my hands to the wet clay and form words and deeds of compassion, make amends, and offer love and forgiveness. With attention to function and continual direction to the Lord’s Word, these spiritual forms will further refine and serve their purpose. In this practice we form ourselves.

Normandy Alden

Normandy is a ceramic artist living in upstate New York. She began working in clay at Gettysburg College, and later apprenticed with the well-known avant-garde ceramic artist, Karen Karnes, before spending a year as a special student at Alfred University. Normandy is married to Edmund Brown and grew up in Bryn Athyn, PA.

Reader Comments (3)

Thank you, Normandy. What you wrote is beautiful. I love the connection between making art and our spiritual lives, especially hearing about it from an experienced artist--a very satisfying read. I really enjoyed your articulation of the idea that practice is the central element.

April 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChelsea Odhner

Lovely Piece Normandy... you are a passionate and dedicated artist who makes great pottery among many other things... how wonderful it is to hear your insights of parallels into spiritual matters.

May 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJared Alden

That beige piece is so gorgeous. It looks like the granddaughter of some functional object that has evolved into being a thing shear beauty for its own sake.
Thanks for the powerful metaphor.

May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlanna Rose
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.