Beauty

A client came in last week wearing a tee shirt that had the word BEAUTY printed across it. A few days later her Mom came in, wearing the same shirt.  I have no idea as to the origin, intent or meaning of that word having been printed on that shirt. I did not ask. But it did set me to thinking about beauty. And how the pursuit and appreciation of it has been a life’s work, and the source of so much pleasure and satisfaction. Like many others, I came to be a gardener from an intense interest and fascination with the natural world. The visual drama of an emerging leaf, the impossibly intense blue color of a delphinium flower, the fragrance of a mock orange in bloom, the shape of an ancient beech tree-everything about the life of plants provides vigorous exercise and engagement to all of the senses. It is not at all unusual to know of a gardener swooning over this or that flower. So normal in my circle and probably yours. The beauty of nature provides a profound pleasure for the heart, hand, and soul, if you will.

A definitive explanation of what constitutes beauty is next to impossible, as it does not exist in a vacuum. A beauty designation is entirely arbitrary and fiercely personal. There is a unique relationship between the observer and the observed. What is seen and what is there to be seen. There are those gardeners who adore green flowers or spring ephemera, and those who wax poetic about hot pink peonies, yellow dahlias and red hibiscus. There are others that would be hard pressed to name a plant they don’t like, just as there are those who think that a beautiful landscape would by definition be confined to hellebores and beech trees. Zinnias are most beautiful to me in large part as they remind me of my Mom. Everyone has their own closely held ideas about what is beautiful.

What constitutes beauty in a garden is a topic of endless discussion. Gardeners and designers of gardens fiercely debate the fine points, and acknowledge their common ground.  I admire some gardens and landscapes more than others, as some are more beautiful to me than others. Whether it be plants, houses, landscapes, art, books, music, bridges or… garden pots, a need for beauty has always been an integral part of the human experience.  It is as simple and as complex as that.
It has been my good fortune over the years to come in contact with ornament for the garden of great beauty. I owe most of that exposure to Rob, who has been shopping and buying for Detroit Garden Works since before it opened in 1996. It is our 25th year in business this year. I find it remarkable that a modestly sized garden shop in the Midwest has not only survived for that long, it has prospered –  buying and selling objects and plants of beauty for the garden. That beauty designation by Rob might include something smart and forward thinking. Some other item might be redolent of the earthy odor of history, sassy and off center, or strongly evocative of a farm garden. His is a very discerning eye, and his range of expertise in his field has been amassed over a long period of time. Opening the shop all those years ago was about wanting to share that aesthetic with other gardeners, and make beautiful garden ornament available to others.  That is what we do – celebrate the beauty of the garden.
Which brings me to a discussion of these pots.  They are of French manufacture. A poterie that has been in business since the late nineteenth century has evolved from a company making terra cotta roof and drain tiles to a fine art studio creating pots of great beauty for the garden. The poterie was built but 300 meters from their clay quarry. There is precious little about them that is not to like.  The sculptural shapes are classically French. The designs date back centuries. Each pot is hand made, and signed by the artisan who made it.

The pots are made via an ancient process. Heavy rope is coiled around a wood form that describes the shape of the pot being made. The clay is pressed onto and into that rope form, until the desired thickness and shape is reached.  As the clay dries, it shrinks away from the rope form. The rope is unwound from the wood form, and will be reused making the next pot. The success of this incredibly simple process depends on a potter of great skill and experience to make a pot of uniform thickness and integrity that can withstand the great heat of the firing process.


This particular finish is a tour de force. The top third of the exterior of the pots, the rims and interiors of each, is drenched in a thick creamy and lustrous glaze that looks good enough to eat. The body of the pots has a thinly applied ceramic matte patina comprised of many shades of cream, taupe and gray. There are places where the red clay body shows through. The cloud like appearance and texture of this finish is hard to describe. I like that. Any object whose beauty defies description will continue to enchant. The surface of each pot is its own painting.

The contrasting surfaces are as appealing to the touch as they are to the eye.
This picture makes it clear that each pot is hand made. Each one of these olive jars is subtly different in shape and size than its neighbor.

The pattern of the rope inside survives the glazing and firing process.
The stamps
The collection of medium olive jars


The tear drop jarre

This is indeed an extraordinarily unusual and beautiful collection of pots.

Comments

  1. Oh my spirit is singing…thank you for sharing your good fortune of working with the French Poterie in this offering to your clients/shoppers…..such beautiful vessels, truly wish I could touch where the artisans hand were……I live in Maine and have dreamt of coming to your shop…..love

  2. SANDRA DURANT says

    These are absolutely wonderful as is your thoughts on beauty and these magnificent pots. Thank you.

  3. Mary Hays says

    The pots are a great example of beauty. One to be treasured.
    They don’t take away from the flowers that will be placed in them, but enhance.

  4. Andrea M Martone says

    Hello
    I am interested in a tall olive jar 36 – 48”?? in this pretty limestone color
    It would go at the end of a walk with tall taxus behind it.
    Can you send me pricing and also cannot be delivered to New York? My zip code is 10591

    • 20debsilver18 says

      Dear Andrea, I will have Jackie get in touch with you about this. Thanks for your interest. kind regards, Deborah

  5. Quite beautiful! How much do these pots run?

    • 20debsilver18 says

      Dear Sharon, all of these pots are on the Detroit Garden Works website. Go to containers-then terra cotta…you will find them. best, Deborah

  6. Kathy Kling says

    I want to see a picture of the T-Shirt.

  7. Deborah Gallagher says

    Hand made pottery has it’s own story with each version the potter makes. Each piece it’s own personality to it. There’s a subtle mystery to each one. It makes you want to know who created it, why the subtle differences, how long they’ve been making pottery, etc. The super box stores can’t even begin to compete with such beauty. I love every one of them.

  8. MaryAnne D says

    Stunning pots, containers have always been the color in my botanical gardens, making the ugly plastic pot disappear. Also, can change out the pots according to the plant or the garden.
    Usually shop for slightly cracked or damaged pots at end of season at nurseries or florists.
    Yours are one of a kind, with a story in them. A must have, thank you for sharing your beauty.

  9. Nella Miller says

    A great piece of writing Deborah…as good an author as you are a gardener, designer and more… hopefully the border will open soon and I can make a trip back to the store.. it was a highlight of my summer a few years ago..thank you always for your insight…🇨🇦

Leave a Comment

*