August 26th, 2021 Newsletter

August 26th, 2021 Newsletter

Windbells are Music to Her Ears...Back to Cool Free Book Offer....The Way of Clay: How Silt-Cast Ceramics are Made


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August 26th, 2021 Volume 17

Music to Her Ears

Finding Joy and Connection Through the Sounds of a Cosanti Windbell

Just as each Cosanti Originals windbell is one of a kind, so too, is the story of each windbell owner. Case in point – Jane Toleno, a self-admitted “bell listener and lover” who collects bells with “voices” that speak to her. Perhaps the voices of the bells speak a little more directly to Jane, as she is totally blind.


Jane and her husband Tom recently relocated to a Brooklyn Park neighborhood in Minnesota. As she began walking and leaning her new neighborhood, Jane recognized a familiar and unmistakable sound: a Cosanti Windbell. Jane knew that sound very well: after all, she already owns three of our bells, gifts from her late mother, who died last year at 103 years old.

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Following the bell sound, Jane’s astute hearing eventually led her to the home where she thought the bell might “live.” “After several stop-to-listen walks-by, I went to the door to tell them how their bell’s sound encourages me,” said Jane. “I said, ‘It gives me my Mom back.’” The homeowner - whose backyard was already home to five Cosanti bronze windbells - was so moved, she asked Jane to hold on a moment, and returned with a Cosanti Windbell, explaining that she felt like she had “one bell too many.” She gave Jane the windbell, saying “welcome to the neighborhood!”


“You have to stop and think, 'Wow...a bell made in Arizona, travels all over with its owners before settling in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, before now blessing me, who's also a transplant here!” Jane says, adding, “Bells speak in so many ways —form, action, sound, looks, texture, size, weight, and carry with them the stories of their journeys from Arizona to anywhere and everywhere. I am honored to have met this bell and have it now be a part of my life!"


Individually hand-crafted in the same time-honored tradition since 1965, our windbells have resonated with admiring collectors for decades, each one somehow beckoning its future owner by striking just the right tone.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jane Tolano

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Ceramics Made By Land, Sand, and Hand:

The Unique Technique of Silt-Casting

If you’ve been to the Cosanti Originals gallery, you’ve certainly seen them before. With shapes resembling steep, rugged peaks or gnome hats knitted from bumpy yarn, the highly textured, ochre-colored ceramic bells with hand-carved symbols and designs project a primitive vibe. And it’s no wonder, when you consider how these interesting windbells are made: directly in the Arizona desert soil.

Silt-casting is a labor-intensive process that begins with collecting silt - a fine sandy soil carried by running water and deposited as sediment - from the Agua Fria River, which runs through Arcosanti’s property. After dampening and spreading the silt into a raised, trough-like bed, our ceramic artisans press ceramic bell molds into it, forming holes when the molds are carefully removed. It’s like building an inverted sandcastle.


Next, a mixture called slip (a combination of clay and water) is poured into these cavities in the sandy soil, and then the waiting begins. As the edges of the slip begin to form the desired thickness, excess slip is siphoned from the center.

Picture baking a cake: can you envision the way the cake’s edges set and take shape before the center does? Well, creating the fragile outer shell of a bell made using the silt casting method is a similar process. As the bell shell sets, it slightly shrinks, and once the walls of the bell have sufficiently thickened, ceramicists carefully wiggle it out from the silt bed. It can take as little as a day and up to a week, depending on weather and bell size, for a silt-cast windbell to reach this point, and it’s only two-thirds complete!


Once removed from the silt bed, the ceramic windbell is then gently rinsed, powdered with mineral oxides giving it that distinctive ochre color, and hand-carved with an original design by a ceramics artisan. A silt-cast bell’s irregular shape, natural coloring, and grainy, textured surface connect to an authentic Arizona of centuries past and bring a handmade, landmade, and sandmade feeling to indoor and outdoor spaces.

Photo credits (top to bottom): Jessica Jameson (top 2), David Blakeman (bottom 1)

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Artisanti Editor & Creative Director: Kelly Bird

Contributing Writer: Chloe Sykes

Graphic Designer: Jesca Wales

Header photo credit: David Blakeman; Footer photo credit: Jessica Jameson Photo