February 1, 2013
Father Maur van Doorslaer, O.S.B. is the designer of all our ceramic creations. Fr. Maur was born Etienne van Doorslaer in France in 1925. He grew up with three brothers and three sisters in Flanders, Belgium. His family were farmers and later flower growers. Beginning in 1942, he spent seven years studying in the Decorative Arts Department of Sint-Lucasinstituut in Ghent. He drew, sketched, painted and studied architecture and sculpture.
In 1951, he entered the Monastery of Sint Andries in Brugges, Belgium, which is the motherhouse of St. Andrew’s Abbey in Valyermo. As a monk he studied Philosophy and Theology in preparation for his ordination in 1958. Fr. Maur was sent to Paris in 1959 and studied pastoral work from 1960 to 1961. There he visited many galleries and exhibitions and kept abreast of the trends of the modern art world. He was especially interested in non-figurative art including Geometric Constructivism, the Lyrical Abstraction of the Ecole de Paris and Abstract Expressionism. He shares a kindred spirit and friendship with many modern artists including Alberto Magnelli, Dan van Severen (who was his classmate at Sint-Lucasinstitut and borrowed his studio for 10 months in 1965), Jef Boudens and Arno Brys. The art of Jackson Pollock and Paul Klee stongly influenced his early works, as did the strict geometric order of August Herbin and Frank Stella and the dark monochromes of Ad Reinhardt.
In 1965, Fr. Maur visited St. Andrew’s Priory (now Abbey) in California for the first time. He was asked by the Prior, Philippe Verhagen, to help the monks establish a ceramics industry in Valyermo as a means of support for their monastery. During this ten month period, he visited Mexico to study their folk art and became inspired to produce a new art form for the fledgling industry. He called this new ceramic art his “cookies”, because of their simplicity of form and child-like attitude and because they reminded him of the Saint Nicholas cookies given to children in his country. The hallmark of his designs are the large, wide open eyes of his saints, madonnas and angels, expressing wide-eyed wonder at the beauty of God, his creations, our world and its beauty, seen simply, as through the eyes of a child. His artwork is not only simple, it is also joyful, humorous and kind. It touches people where they “are”, not where they “should be”.
For 36 years, Father has spent five months (May to October) a year designing ceramics for St. Andrew’s Abbey. Today, we produce more than 425 plaques of his design for sale in the U.S. and abroad. We have hundreds, perhaps thousands, of collectors who look forward to each year’s new designs. Our ceramics are carried in more than 600 shops in the U.S. and Canada.
The rest of the year, Fr. Maur lives, prays and works in his own monastery, Sint Andries Abdij, Zevenkerken in Brugge, Belgium. In his studio, he paints his white-on-white canvasses,which are composed of basic geometric forms: crosses, rectangles, circles and squares, concentric squares, and divisions of the square into other squares and rectangles and triangles.
In his work, we find “the restfulness of symmetry, the equilibrium of the perfectly balanced composition and the harmony and stillness of an autonomous world of pure form.