Richard Bresnahan has operated the Saint John’s Pottery, located on the campus of Saint John’s University in central Minnesota, since 1980. He graduated from Saint John’s in 1976, having studied under potter Bill Smith and the renowned scholar of Japanese ceramics, Johanna Becker, OSB. He spent his final year of college, and three years after that, in Japan as an apprentice to Nakazato Takashi, a thirteenth generation scion of a pottery making family. In the Japanese tradition, Richard produces woodfired pottery from locally excavated clay, some of which bears glazes also formulated from local materials. Deeply influenced by the intergeneration teaching traditions of Pacific Rim countries, Richard has trained scores of apprentices in the last thirty years. While at Saint John’s, Richard has constructed two climbing kilns (noborigama), the second of which is the largest of its type in North America with an interior capacity of 1,600 cubic feet.
Deep respect for material and the environment characterize Richard’s approach to pottery production, and innovation and experimentation inform his ongoing dialogue with clay and fire. Throughout his career, he has consistently challenged himself to undertake new firing techniques, to test potential glaze materials, and to devise new and uniquely functional ceramic shapes. The powerful and dynamic pottery that he produces embodies both the nature of his locality—through the use of local materials—and his own inimitably Midwestern artistic vision.
Dr. Matthew Welch
Curator, Stoked: Five Artists of Fire and Clay
Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN; 2010