Globe Syndicate

for release December 22, 2000


Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Making the Best of Unhappy Accidents

Has the year 2000 turned out like you hoped?

Dick Lehman is a marvelous potter in Goshen, Indiana. I was fascinated by the story behind one of his innovations in firing.

One day a number of years ago Dick was hosting a visiting Canadian potter for three days of raku firing at his studio. Raku is a method of firing pottery loosely based on a 16th century Japanese technique, where a piece is rapidly fired, removed from the kiln while hot, placed in a container or pit with combustible material, and covered. Since the oxygen supply to the resulting fire is cut off, the piece receives a very heavy smoking. Many interesting glaze and surface effects can be obtained using this method. [Information is available at]

Dick Lehman and his friend had limited time, so they decided to fire on the second day, in spite of threatening, very stormy skies. Growing up in Northern Indiana tornado country myself, I know how wild the weather can be some days.

At one point when they were moving one of the large pots from the kiln to the post-firing reduction container, a tornado touched down several miles away. The surrounding gusts of wind toppled his container and Dick's prized pot rolled down a dirt bank into a large clump of wet grasses.

His heart fell to his feet.

Very unhappy, he retrieved the pot, covered it up again, and "waited with dismal certainly for it to cool and confirm its almost-certain" failure.

But when he uncovered the pot, "To my surprise I discovered a colorful photo-like image of the wet grasses on the side of the pot."

This happy accident led Dick to pursue intentionally firing fresh leaf images onto his raku pots. As he experimented, he was able to create an almost photographic clarity to the images.

A paleontologist once visited Lehman's studio. "After questioning me about my firing procedures, he chuckled and said, 'You have almost duplicated the carbon-film-transfer method of fossil formation. What nature takes many years to accomplish, you have created in 60 hours. You're making fast fossils.'" It is a name that has stuck.

Dick Lehman, along with 11 other producing artists and craftspeople, maintains his studio in an old factory building called "The Old Bag Factory" ( in Goshen Indian. Today his innovative fresh leaf nature images on pottery fetch very handsome prices, once again proving the old adage, some happy accidents are the mother of great bank rolls.

This year may not have turned out quite like you had dreamed or planned. Accident, illness, hospitalizations and death may have visited your family. The stock market sent you reeling. Unexpected pregnancy in the family, the nightmare of the November elections in the U.S., unexpected vehicle and housing maintenance expenses took their toll on your stretched-to-the-max budget.

Yet, can you find a way to pick up the ruined pot and unwrap it to find the treasure that remains? Out of illness-comes new awareness of the love and support of family and friends. Out of financial setback, perhaps you learn how to trim your expenses, or get by on less. The disappointment of not making it into the school or job of your choice turns out to be a blessing in disguise, and you find new meaning or new friends in another location.

Each year, each day, and each moment really, is a fresh chance to begin again. Sometimes that is the only way we can keep going, living one day at a time. A blessed New Year to you.

For your free Christmas gift from Another Way, ask for our wall calendar. Write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

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Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.

NOTES TO EDITORS: text = 630 words; end material = 105 words

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©2000 by Globe Syndicate, all rights reserved.

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