As the Cageless Birds collective, we enjoy setting our hands to creative projects, making beautiful things that inspire people in their everyday moments with the Lord. One of these creative practices that has developed into a thriving business is our Pottery department where our two resident potters create limited edition ceramic pieces. This month we sat down with Erica Barron and Emily Pell, our potters in residence, to hear about their passion for ceramics and how they have encountered God in the process.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH THE CAGELESS BIRDS AND HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING WITH THE CERAMICS DEPARTMENT?
Emily: I have been a part of the Cageless Birds since 2014. At that point, I started taking pottery classes at a local arts guild and fell in love with the art of pottery. In 2016 I helped establish the pottery studio as a teaching tool for our schools. After 3 years of cultivating this art form Erica joined the team and we pioneered the Cageless Birds Ceramics department in 2018.
WHAT IS THE MISSION OF THE CERAMICS DEPARTMENT?
Emily: The Cageless Birds Ceramics department was birthed out of a deep love for the craft of wheel-thrown pottery. In our first few years of operation, we were solely a teaching studio where we introduced our 18 Inch Journey students to the unique connection between clay and the nature of the Lord. This continues to be our primary mission. During the 18 Inch Journey, we teach pottery as a discipleship tool and as a way to connect our students to what it means to be shaped by a Creator who is fully present and committed to our process.
Another important part of our mission is to support the Cageless Birds staff and our dream of discipleship. We love what we create as a part of the Cageless Birds, and quality and craftsmanship are very important to us. Each piece is thrown by hand one at a time to create a unique piece of art that is made to last for generations to come. Our desire is to hold on to our original vision of creating out of a deep connection to the heart of the Lord. It’s an honor to send our pieces all around the world as a testament of our wholeness journey, and we hope that it inspires others to choose a path of wholeness.
AS AN ARTIST, WHAT DO YOU FEEL MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT?
Erica: Since I can remember, I have been making and creating things with my hands for the sake of beauty. Something in me comes alive when a seemingly insignificant object becomes beautiful in my hands. It’s the sheer wonder of creativity. I am passionate about beauty for beauty’s sake, and I know that this passion has sustained me in all my creative endeavors. Sometimes we are taught that beauty doesn’t hold a weighty value. I disagree. I am inspired by stories in the Bible, like King Solomon’s temple, where beauty was marveled at and was prioritized as a means of experiencing a unique part of the heart of God.
WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE POTTERY PROCESS TO YOU AND WHY?
Emily: I think attention to detail is the most important part of the process to me. I am a lover of details: the slight curve of a mug, the way a handle feels in my hand, and the relationship between the color and shape are all very important to me because they reflect beauty and function.
Pottery is a very messy craft but it’s not sloppy—sloppy and messy are two different things. Every stage requires focus and careful precision in order to produce a beautiful and functional final product. I think this says a lot about the heart of the Father. He is not afraid of our mess, always ready to lean in close and get involved in our process. At the same time, He isn’t sloppy. He is attentive to every detail, aware of how each stage of our life affects the next. He is an intentional Creator who is fully engaged and committed to the details of our lives.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO COMMUNICATE THROUGH YOUR CERAMIC GOODS?
Erica: Handmade is special. It speaks of extravagance and being worth the investment into something that is one of a kind. It’s a product that a human being has dedicated hours upon hours to crafting, handling and troubling-shooting.
One of the greatest things I have discovered in the pottery process is the value of slowing down and embracing my limitations. Pottery is a craft that cannot be rushed. Shortcuts don’t work, and that has required me to accept a deeper patience for the process. I have come to realize that slowing down is a vital part of loving my humanity. There is an invitation to enjoy a different pace of work—diligent, but not in a hurry. Efficient, but at rest. They can exist in the same breath. When people purchase our ceramic goods, I want them to feel the joy of their own humanity. It is a gift to be human and to let a handmade vessel be an avenue for self-compassion.
I hope and dream that every product we make would inspire people to acknowledge their worth and celebrate their humanity.