Golden Bowls

He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne.  And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb.  Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.
– Revelation 5 verses 7 and 8

In the early 90’s I started experimenting with organic bowl forms using slip and combustible materials such as straw and paper. I then discovered a way of transferring script and drawings onto ceramic by using photocopies and slip. I loved the effects this achieved – a sense of aging and decay like fragments of old frescos  on the walls of an ancient building. I had an idea of one day combining these techniques to create an installation made up of many bowls, but although the thoughts were recorded in my sketchbook they were not, at the time, realized. 

Then in 2006 I was commissioned by the pastors of my church to make a large “Prayer Bowl” inspired by a passage in the book of Revelation.

“the four living creatures and the twenty four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints”

I chose passages from the Bible for  the outside of the bowl and to contrast, a gold lustre glaze on the inside. 

Having made the first “Golden Bowl” for the church it was  a natural progression to do a piece of work made up of 24 bowls – the number coming from the passage in Revelation. The first set of “24 Golden Bowls” was made for Bucks Open Studios 2006. 

Since then I have continued to make more golden bowls and they have developed and evolved taking on a variety of different forms and sizes. It is not my intention to make a completely symmetrical and perfect form but rather one that looks more organic or as if it could have been dug up from the earth. I enjoy the fact that the bowls often warp or distort during firing and I’m never sure exactly how much of the images and lettering will come out until I unload the kiln. 

Each bowl is unique. For the outside of my earlier bowls I combined my own drawings with passages from the Bible. After visiting Israel in 2007 I begun to include passages from the Psalms in Hebrew. Using an ancient script added something aesthetically to surface of the bowls which I liked but also held a deeper significance in that the roots of Christianity lie in the Hebrew faith and the original Old Testament was written in Hebrew. 

More recently I have explored a number of different themes on the  bowls often reflecting the things I enjoy drawing, such as museum artifacts and natural forms. I’ve been experimenting with different  techniques using oxides and colours as well the idea of fragmented bowls inspired by reconstructed pottery found in archaeological museums. This is something I hope to develop further.

  1. Penny Gray-Mele

    Really beautiful

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