Assumption Abbey Pottery with Brother Llewellyn Kouba
He joined the Benedictine community at the Richardton, North Dakota Assumption Abbey during the summer of 1975, and made his Solemn Profession of Vows in 1981. His monastic responsibilities have included various assignments such as maintenance, custodial work, grounds manager, cook, bookbindery, laundry, hospitality and more recently pottery.
The Pottery Studio at Richardton first opened in 1988 with Brother Basil Atwell as the first director. Brother Basil had been sent to study printshop related courses, but was intrigued by the ceramics class in an adjacent room, so his focus of study was changed to the pottery instruction. He later retired as pottery maker but continues his work in the pastoral field. Brother Llewellyn studied a year with Brother Basil before the studio was temporarily closed for a couple of years.
Through mutual agreement Brother Llewellyn completed an apprenticeship with Sister Denis Frandrup, OSB of St. Joseph, Minnesota and then in 1996 ASSUMPTION ABBEY POTTERY was once again reopened. His transition from the fine art of painting to pottery was a natural one. He was soon vigorously creating both stoneware and porcelain clay bodies, and making a difference in people’s lives through clay. He said “Clay and art is a passion”.
Brother Llewellyn also explained that at crucial times such as loading the kiln, he depends upon another Benedictine Monk for assistance. Brother Louie, who normally divides his time between the car garage, vegetable gardening, and the nearby Abbey Farm, graciously takes time from his busy schedule to help at the pottery studio.
Working with native North Dakota Clays has been especially interesting because of its abundance. A local potter and friend says, “We live in a candy store”, referring to the abundance and availability of local clays. Collecting and processing native clays is work intensive. Because of these factors and the reality that Brother Llewellyn works alone, pottery ware made with North Dakota clay will never be offered in large quantities.
Assumption Abbey Pottery is sold in the Gift Shoppe. Some of the different items that you may see in the gift shoppe are: oil lamps, chili bowls, vases, plates, bonsai planters with drain trays, cups, hand built bird houses and other utilitarian type pottery wares or artistic creations. His pottery can be found all over the United States, as well as overseas. Brother Llewellyn also does commission work and monastic works for the Abbey, such as the 15 piece Eucharistic set. His creations are in both stone ware and porcelain clays.
Brother Llewellyn, Brother Louie, Audrey and I marveled at the wonderful view that extended from the dinning room window. We could see the beautiful North Dakota prairie that at its horizon meets the sky. A special thanks to Brother Llewellyn for giving us a much clearer insight into his world of pottery, where beauty in its many forms can serve to deepen our appreciation and understanding of this practical and creative art form.