The Saint John’s Pottery announces special lighting ceremony and 12th firing of Johanna Kiln

August 26, 2013

The public is invited to the 12th firing lighting ceremony of the Johanna Kiln at 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. The wood kiln firing will honor three women central to the Saint John's Pottery. This special event will also commemorate the closing chapter of "Stoked: Five Artists of Fire and Clay," a national exhibition tour celebrating over 30 years of the Saint John's Pottery and the Apprenticeship Program. Prairie Public Broadcasting will film the event.

Designed and built by Master Potter and Artist-in-Residence Richard Bresnahan with the assistance of apprentices and volunteers, the Johanna Kiln was first fired in 1995. It is the largest wood-burning kiln of its kind in North America and can hold up to 12,000 works of pottery and sculpture. The kiln takes six weeks to load and is typically fired in the fall. The firing lasts for 10 days, with over 50 volunteers from around the world working day and night.

Homecoming Celebration to Honor Three Scholars of Japanese Art

In Japanese Buddhism, a Hatsubon celebration commemorates loved ones who have recently passed on, and often includes the ceremonial lighting of paper vessels. The 12th firing event will recognize three women who have passionately supported the arts of Japan and the work of the Saint John's Pottery.

S. Johanna Becker, OSB, received a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Michigan. A renowned scholar and teacher, she authored "Karatsu Ware" and arranged for her student, Bresnahan, to apprentice as a potter in Japan. The Johanna Kiln is named in her honor. Becker passed away on Sept. 22, 2012.

Mary Griggs Burke possessed the most encyclopedic private holding of Japanese art outside Japan and was awarded Japan's Order of the Sacred Treasure. She sponsored Bresnahan's Japanese apprenticeship and the film "Clay, Wood, Fire, Spirit: The Pottery of Richard Bresnahan." She passed away on Dec. 8, 2012.

A recipient of the Japan-America Society of Minnesota Mondale Award and the St. Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Chip Fricke Award, Akiko Sako committed her life to developing relations between Japan and Minnesota. A dear friend of the Saint John's Pottery, Sako passed away on May 5, 2012.

Richard Bresnahan and the Saint John's Pottery

A graduate of SJU, Bresnahan apprenticed in Karatsu, Japan with a 13th generation Living National Treasure pottery family. The knowledge gained from this experience earned Bresnahan the title of Master Potter. He founded the Saint John's Pottery in 1979 and produces wood-fired pottery from local clay and natural glaze materials. For more information, visit the Saint John's Pottery website.