week 3: Petrus Spronk's

The Artist

Dutch born artist Petrus Spronk is based in Daylesford, South Eastern Australia and describes himself as “a creative spirit travelling along the ceramic path”. I have known Petrus as a ceramicist, sculptor, writer and an avid supporter of community arts and have had the privilege of working with Petrus several times, performing (live) sound-paintings in response to his writings and selected art works.


The Art 

 “ZEN SILENCE – of the forest snow” by Petrus Spronk
(height 105 mm, width 145 mm)

Series: ‘The magic of the Forest’,  Cat 21, sold

burnished ceramic bowl by Petrus Spronk

“ZEN SILENCE – of the forest snow”


Petrus’ comments

“The bowl is not glazed, but burnished. I learned the art of burnishing from the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. Burnishing means polishing the clay by rubbing it with a very smooth stone before the bowl is fired, to make the clay, to some extent, non-porous.

The surface of this bowl was manipulated/adorned with a brush filled with smoke and flames, that, plus a little magic. I did not create the bowl as a container, but rather as an object of contemplation, with the important aspect of the bowl: the empty space inside.I hope it will bring some quietness, stillness and meditativeness into the space it is viewed.


rear view of a ceramic burnished bowl by Petrus Spronk called "Zen Silence - of the forest snow"

“ZEN SILENCE- of the forest snow” (another view)

With this work it is the firing process in the wood-fired kiln
where the emphasis lies.
The enriching of a surface imbued with flame and smoke markings
Extracting from the kiln its visual magic.
Enhancing the work with Kiln mysteries
Painting the surface of the bowl with a brush loaded with fire and smoke, creating images of the forest in its primal form. Returning to the source.

Something raw with something refined
And there lies the necessary tension in the work
The tension which gets the attention”



The Music

“EPHEMERAL STONES” (9:40) © Helen Davey
(for piano and E-bow)
a meditation for the emptiness of bowls

I was thinking about earth through to stone; about stones we can move, those we can’t move and the earth’n’stone we have to work to move; I imagined soft clay and friable soils, water softened pebbles, glaciated mountain ridges, fault and fold lines in cliff faces, monoliths and sand grains, course bedrock and the compounds, gems, metals and precious stones therein.

I wanted to give a sense of now-ness, random and orderliness; fullness and emptiness, here and there-ness; the space to contemplate these things and how we do or don’t relate to allness and oneness (all in three minutes or less…but I needed more time, hence almost 10 mins of music).

In allocating a different pulse to each piano track (10, 6, 8 and one with random pulse) I was aiming for a definite structure that I couldn’t predict other than knowing it would act as a container of meter.

By maintaining a commitment to this basic structure, I played each track without a specific harmonic progression in mind, allowing the music to form it’s own intersections of sound (chords).

E-Bow playing grand piano strings

E-Bow at work

The E-bow is here to add to the sense of spaciousness. No audio effects have been added to the raw recordings. It is as it is.

Rather than creating a canonic/circular piece, I wanted to have a start and finish point to the music with a middle section that evolved in it’s own way, thus giving the spaciousness and “zwischenraum” as a place of contemplation.

That’s what I’d like to give here, hoping it is complimentary to Petrus’ beautiful, earthen bowl.

Like many artists, Petrus works in different media. Part of his art making is ephemeral. Because of the theme of contemplation touched on in this post, I wanted to share some of his ephemeral art. I have included a tiny “amuse-gueule” of one of his projects called “No Harm”. in some of Petrus’ photographs (used with permission): He used clay to paint tree trunks blackened from recent fires.

Hope you’ve enjoyed the silence and sounds. I’ll leave you with art and words from Petrus.
Thanks for passing through (feel free to pass it on to people you think may be interested)


"tree paintings"

“tree paintings”




"tree paintings"

“tree paintings”

“If you are able to concentrate on the work and all its processes,

the forming of clay,
the visual effects,
the earth kiln,
the smoky fire,
the inherent power within limitations,
and the unexpected yields,
you are able to enter another space and float through a whole vast story.

A story that is writing and re-writing itself as part of the clay-making process.

It is also the story about the true wonder of everything”.

Petrus Spronk


14 comments to week 3: Petrus Spronk’s “Zen Silence”

  • The music, the work and the words travel beautifully together

  • Marcela

    I love the music, the silences and the melancholie this piece.

  • Wow! I love this. The sound painting is meditative, and I think it amplifies the intent in making the bowl as described by Petrus Spronk. What a wonderful collaboration!

  • this most beautiful bowl I have ever seen was meant to hold this spacious music

  • Kristin

    Coming back to revisit some of my favourite sound paintings. Thank you for this magical piece and the opportunity to reflect on Petrus’ Zen bowl which inspired it.

  • Nicholas Onan


  • hey helen

    imagine my surprise when i opened my computer this morning and found your post which i didn’t know you had created, but which i followed up. i was equally and pleasantly surprised when i turned to the piece you created with my bowl in mind. hauntingly beautiful, both empty and full. in any case another one of your special creations. i am so very pleased that a simple clay bowl of mine created such inspiring music. it is playing right now and fills me with wonder. thank you Helen for your amazing music and for your attention to my work, which, in the end, is just a simple clay bowl. empty.

    • Helen

      Hey there Petrus,
      Good to hear from you, although I’m a little confused by your comment, because your several complimentary emails to me in December 2013 indicated how happy you were with the post, the music for your beautiful bowl and by the whole project. You even emailed quotes from some of your happy followers whom you’d alerted to my post…
      However, with so much info bouncing into all of our computers hourly, I’m putting it down to nearly 3 years of info overload 🙂
      Great to hear you still enjoy the music for your beautiful bowl.

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