These words I write are for the people, by that I mean, most people, ones not involved in the underrated world of ceramics. I want to explain how this pot came into existence and shed light on the process so “the people”, my people, understand how cool ceramics really is. It’s an art form, but it’s also a science!
For the ceramics savvy , this was soda fired inside a large bowl, that is the reason for the gradient colors, the bowl acted as a shield! If that last sentence is confusing, keep reading.
Clay is intriguing due to its range of characteristics, it can be thin as syrup (slip), malleable like play dough, or stiff like soft wood (for the sake of knowledge, keep your mind out of the gutter). Then you fire it and everything changes right down to its molecular level, clay turns into glass and stone. The way this particular piece was fired is actually what makes it special but the making came first, so….
This bottle was thrown on the wheel and altered afterward by hand to give it its voluptuous and wavy form. It was fired in a kiln/furnace to 2,300 degrees for around 24 hours and the color and texture come from chemical reactions within the kiln during firing, I did not directly design the surface, but I did influence it.
I’ll admit, the transformation within the kiln is not as as mysterious as Santa Clause but it still feels like Christmas morning to open one. The color and texture are the result of flame interacting with clay and its form. You can think of every kiln as its own unique palette, then factor in the type of fuel you use, firing method, clay body, and glazes. These all play a major roll in how the finished product will be. Since this isn’t a college course and you don’t have 4 months to read I will fill you in on the most interesting part, the science of a soda kiln (also known as an atmospheric kiln)!
The type of kiln I used here is a Soda Kiln. During firing, sodium (similar to baking soda) is dissolved in water and sprayed into the kiln, instantly vaporizing, turning into a gas. Flame and vapor flow around the pots in streams and eddies like a river. (During loading the maker imagines these streams and tries to predict how his/her pot will be affected.) As sodium gas flows through the kiln it turns to glass when it comes into contact with the pots and “glazes” the work. The dark green and black glossy area at the top of this bottle is where the vapor made heavy contact with the pot, the bottom is dry because it was totally protected from the streams of flame and vapor.
The interesting thing about this piece is that it was fired inside of a large bowl, protecting the bottom half from the vapor like a shield, that is why there is a gradient of texture and color from top to bottom.
Drum roll please!
These bottles were made by the great Jason Hess. He is the main man of the ceramic program and wood firing is his forte. He is mostly a functional potter. The details of his pots are free flowing, spontaneous, and natural. I am strongly influenced by his style and I am learning from it everyday. Jason helped me through this past year more than anyone and I owe him big time.
This piece was made by Steve Schaeffer. Mr. Steve is the kind of guy who demands respect due to his knowledge and professionalism. He has given me the critiques I need to become a better ceramic artist, his words have been priceless in my exploration of this medium.
Steve is a humble potter who truly does it for the joy. He started off as a production potter but has moved on to sculpture.
Next on the list is Jennifer Holt. Everyone loves Jen especially my dog Lucy (because of all the treats Jen spoils her with). Jen’s influence on my work is very healthy. She is doing stuff I would never think of and it inspires me. This is her second year at NAU. Her style is unique, delicate, and and sensitive. She specializes in installations and knows how to create a sense of mysticism with her work. She mainly works with slip casted porcelain. Having her here really helps NAU’s reputation.
Jason Bohnert made this little gem. He is a solid functional potter and teaches part time here at NAU. His work is the kind you really just want to put to use. He is is a passionate teacher and the kind I would hope to be one day. He is also an outdoors dude and I get the notion he’s a bit of a hippy. He is also the guy that got me into cross country skiing.
So that is a little of what NAU has to offer. Thanks guys for all your help, knowledge, and drinks at Mia’s. You inspire me and keep me motivated.
This photo is “Butt Cheeks” Levon, the new post back Dave, and me loading the Anagama kiln.
Levon and a student stoking the kiln from the side.
Levon again showing the lovely lady how to tend to the flame, altough, I believe he wanted more for her to tend to his flame if you know what I mean.
We had so much work that we filled a Soda kiln with the overflow pots. Here we are just before bricking the door and lighten er up.
I finally got around to photographing my sculptures I made during last semester here at NAU, if you haven’t seen them you can find the finished products in the gallery.
I recently lucked out and scored a commission. Here is where I am at so far with 3 bisque fired pieces. Now I just need to figure out what to glaze them. I am going to try different firings for each to experiment with surface and effects.
Here are a couple of sculptures I have been slaving over. When I unveiled this anthropomorphic owl to my dog Lucy, she barked and growled at it until she realized it was just wet clay. then she wanted to lick it… strange but still, I think that makes it a success in that I was able to stir another animals emotions with my art.
This next item is not a sculpture but it is still a work of art. Bloody marys to break up the work day and make the evening session more enjoyable. A hearty meal in themselves garnished with celery, a pickled pepper, an olive, a pickle, pepper jack cheese and a glorious strip of bacon to top it all off. I may have even forgot a garnish. All for $6 on Sundays! These have become a Sunday afternoon tradition in my life.
So, after a pleasant discussion over a couple drinks its off to the studio again. This was a class assignment that involved making a shape, then making replicas of that shape for everyone in class, then exchanging shapes and making a sculpture out of them. I decided to simply attach everyone’s items and encase them in some sort of sci-fi sphere. It has yet to be glazed and fired but so far so good. It really invites the viewer for a closer look inside.
I don’t know where to begin. I do a bad job at keeping all my people up to date, now that I have finally gotten around to it, there is so much to say. First off, I am loving my education here at NAU. I feel like a geek saying that but its true. I have been discovering different artistic avenues and I feel like I’m quite the explorer of new frontiers. I’m creating art for both the pleasure of the process and the pleasure of whoever sees it afterward, it is a simple fact and it drives me-
I just finished a soda fire. the textures and crystal growth bring a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. Here are the results !
I happy about these pieces. The surface on most of them is a surface I am been seeking for many moons. it is a completely organic surface. By that I mean I have mimicked a natural process within the earth, a process that in this case forms crystals, patterns and textures. It is a somewhat random, somewhat uncontrolled, yet somewhat controlled look. I feel like some sort of small god, some cosmic being who created a planet/piece of art but left the surface to develop its own organic beauty. I also feel like a scientist. its pretty great.
There’s other news, maybe even greater news. The divergence from my regular routine of vessels has begun. I am sculpting, and not just with clay but various types of metal. I have just completed a recreation of Michelangelo’s “David” and I am pleased. It’s a damn good thing too because it took a stupid long time. It consists of metal rods, bent and welded. As you can see, there are a lot of bends and welds. the only critique I got from my teacher is that his wiener was too small and Michelangelo made a mistake. Oh well, this assignment was to simply recreate a famous piece and that is how it is. Here is another piece from a fellow classmate. its pretty great.
I have been working on some other fun sculptures but cant find the photos. Oh well, that leaves more news for the next episode.
A FINAL NOTE:
This semester has been that most difficult one I have ever endured but it has also been the most enjoyable. I don’t even want to think about how many hours I have put into my work, not to mention all the late nights, deadlines and solitude that comes with it. Still, it has been a work of love and I am finding more enjoyment the further I progress. I’m busting my ass, so to speak, and the thought of getting paid for this one day is intriguing. That is why I am working on an online shopping cart so you can purchase my stuff and things for your own pleasure and enjoyment. Lets hope I get that up soon.
Thanks for your time.