The Beauty of Birch

Elizabeth Radliff

I am not the first person, and certainly won't be the last, to create art that is inspired by the beauty of Birch trees. I walk my dogs every day in the woods around my home. There are a number of birch trees along our regular walk that I feel connected with and have observed over the years. Birch are beautiful, interesting trees in all seasons.

The forest meets the sea all along Maine's coastline. Sandy beaches are great but there is something very special about being among the trees and by the sea at the same time. Birch trees can look very dramatic in the winter when the white bark stands out against the gray and brown bark of its neighbors. Throw in some snow, a blue-gray ocean and a brilliant blue sky and you behold a spectacular sight.

Nature inspires us and also instructs. When we have winter storms with large amounts of snow or ice the flexibility of the birch will be tested. Mature trees, over 20 feet tall, can be bent down to the ground with the weight, forming arches. Sometimes they can't bear it and they break. Sometimes they slowly straighten back up as the weight melts away. Resilience and strength through flexibility.

In Celtic mythology birch is associated with cleansing and purification. In "The Green Man Tree Oracle", John Matthews and Will Worthington write: "Traditionally birch was used to drive out evil spirits and return to sanity those who had become mad. Its calendrical association is with the beginnings of the year, and with the sacred festival of Samhain, hence its connection with making a fresh start. The birch is also one of the first trees to flower in the spring."

Rudolph Steiner wrote "Tree Verses" - a verse for each day of the week with some advice from specific tree species to human beings. For Friday he wrote:

"Thus speaks Coppery Venus
Through the virgin softness of Birch
which is delicately rooted
and drinks in the light
Work on your soul in tenderness,
admire lovingly the beauty of the world."

Good advice for any occasion!

Pottery is amazing to me in every way. I vividly remember the first time I watched someone make a pot on the wheel many years ago. I was inspired! What a useful and beautiful thing to be able to do! Functional beauty - pottery that looks, feels and performs in a pleasing way - is my ultimate aim.

The Birch pottery is handmade on a potters wheel. I use white clay; decorate the pots with a black clay slip; bisque fire them; clear glaze them and fire them again to 2205 degrees F (also known as cone 5). The glaze is lead-free. The Birch pottery is dishwasher and microwave safe. I love to see the wonderful array of forms and colors that potters produce. I also very much enjoy the naturalness and simplicity of the Birch Stoneware pottery and hope you will too!

Thank you for your interest!

Elizabeth Radliff


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