Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beneath the Surface

There are many things that can inspire ceramics forms: nature, history, architecture, emotion. I view clay as a living organism and the pots I form from it are alive, animated, anthropomorphic. Visually, this can range from being very subtle to profoundly obvious. I see the bottoms of pots not as bottoms, but as feet. Spouts and handles are limbs and tails. Pots have posture and character that enhance their utility.

Wood firing is the firing process that I find most engaging. It is both labour and time intensive, taking anywhere from 1-6 days of vigilant work to complete one firing. It is supported by a unique and wide ranging discourse which focusses on themes as the anonymity the craftsperson and the beauty of non-intellectual, repetitive work. The results can range from a quiet, natural subtlety to a rugged, robust earthiness of crusty texture and fiery color. Although it the oldest tradition of firing techniques, wood firing has recently enjoyed a resurgence in contemporary ceramics. The manipulation of flame and air have proven to be too much of an allure to many studio potters. Many of the results have been over the top extremes of surface such as the ones seen in the abstract expressionist ceramics of the 1950s. Not surprisingly, because of it's labour intensiveness, it has also been an predominantly male dominated process. Over the last 6 years it has been my firing technique of choice.

The portion of the body of work that I have presented in the last section of slides have been produced with this technique. These pieces were produced while living at an artist residency in Denmark. I worked with a highly respected Norwegian woman potter and teacher to build a small scale version of a fast firing wood kiln. The results of these firings contain all of the language and elements of traditional wood firings, such as flashing in the clay body, carbon trapping and melted wood ash. The work that I produced was designed to embrace these effects of the process, however I worked in a non production style of creating single or small grouping of pieces. The individualistic forms were made by throwing specific forms on the wheel, altering them and attaching the pieces together in a construction type format. Some parts of the vessels were slip cast, with molds and then assembled to the wheel thrown pieces. I wanted the surfaces of the pieces to be decorative, but also subtle, allowing the effects of the flame enhance them. I innovated several vitreous slips using cobalt and titanium to produce the shiny blue and light yellow colors. The glazes were developed to be vitrified to allow for full utility of the pieces, while also capturing the carbon trapping and ash melting effects of the wood firing process. I brought these pieces back to Vancouver to exhibit at the Gallery of BC Ceramics. The results of this innovative kiln design stand out as unique and contemporary.

Complicated themes are sometimes best communicated through comfortable objects like pots. Vessels contain and convey ideas and values about nature, ego, spirit and civilization that can be read on gut levels. I use the language of pots to communicate these ideas to others. I use utilitarian pots in my daily life and hear the intimate echo of these ideas

Things left Undone...

Why not have thought provoking imagery on intimate objects such as pots? We spend so much time with them. Why not use imagery to compliment forms and surface? The difficulty with wood fired pottery is that it does not seem to communicate the powerful ideas and ethics that permeate the history and the process of wood firing, to the non potter. This may leave innumerable beautiful objects overlooked by many, simply because they have no awareness of the skill, history and context of the object. I have chosen to combine my wood fired pots with common imagery. I would like to provoke ideas about the unseen, inner workings and foundations of culture and individuals. By utilizing this imagery to attract the attention of the audience, my intention is to draw the viewer in to perhaps take a second look, linger long enough to notice the surface quality, subtle colors, and handcrafted forms of these works. Quite frankly, I think that the survival of craft is dependent on this. As a craftsperson, I feel the need to evolve with and reflect the culture which I live in. As an artist, I feel the need to communicate to a broad spectrum of individuals those values and thought processes which are the foundations of my belief system as a craftsperson.
All rhetoric aside, I enjoy the marriage of imagery and form and surface in these pots. Whether this imagery enhances or detracts from the beauty of a wood fired vessel or just provokes questions, ideas or feelings, it is my intention to open up a dialogue amongst all those who enjoy and partake in the act of seeing.

. It may seem odd, to try to enhance something by adding more information. (is not the first ethic of the wood fired pot a reverence for a quiet, simple beauty?) From my perspective, human kind is racing at speeds faster than sound, overlooking the beauty that exists everywhere. Yes, an Attention Deficit Disorder race have we created ourselves to be. I find great camaraderie, inspiration and comfort within my own potter community, but I would be lying if I said that I was content to have the pots I make viewed and interpreted by only this community. Clay is an art medium, and I feel the need and responsibility to speak to a greater audience. Indeed, isn’t telling a fellow potter or ceramic artist about the subtle beauty of a carbon trapped shino, like preaching to the converted? Wouldn’t the world be a different place if politicians, CEO’s and lumberjacks alike could see the value of a wood fired pot? It seems to me that there are many TV watcher, plastic cup buyers out there who could be ‘tricked’ into appreciating the wood fired pot, if only something could draw in there eye to linger just one moment longer.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sunday, October 01, 2006

In The Palm of a Hand ..... BC to Japan Touring Exhibiton

From October 19 to November 13th, the Gallery of BC Ceramics plays host to a special collaborative exhibit: In the Palm of the Hand, a collection of 50 juried ceramic works from British Columbia and 38 from the city of Tajimi, Japan. One of the pieces is mine, a single bud vase which was made while I was in Denmark. It's a great exhibit concept - in 2005, as part of its 50th anniversary celebration, members of the Potters Guild of BC sent their work to Japan to be displayed next to works by Tajimi artists. The title of the exhibit was inspiried by each piece, which fits within an 8-inch wooden cube that is used for transport and display. Tajimi City, sometimes known as the ceramics capital of Japan, is situated north of Nagoya in Japan. Together with neighbouring town, Seto, the area forms one of Japan’s key centres of traditional pottery. The area has generated several styles, including Oribe, Ki-Seto and Shino, which have come to symbolize the Japanese aesthetic in ceramics. Today, ceramic sculptures line the main street of the city. Sounds like a perfect partner city for Vancouver!

Monday, September 18, 2006


Serene and beautiful.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Wood Soda Kiln - Denmark 2003


This sweet wood soda kiln was constructed from a gutted gas kiln. This was a very moody, fussy giant that needed to be coaxed and persuaded to every degree. It took a painstaking 28 hours to get this kiln to temperature, a cone 11 flat which is approximately 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. The results couldn't have been more beautiful and if you have ever fired wood soda you know what I mean. Rich orange flashing, juicy blobs of suspended dolomite glaze, luscious orange peely shinos. It was worth very moment.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pink Dahlia Topiary

The photo is as much about this extraordinary arrangement of pink dahlias and green apples as it is about the porcelain vessel holding them. This organically shaped vessel was wheel thrown in three parts and assembled while it was still pliable. It was fired to cone 6 in oxidation and is glazed with a simple dolomite matte white glaze.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

^6 Soda Fired Teapot

I made this interesting teapot while at NSCAD in the summer of 2002. I love it's asymmetrical quality. This pot's unique form was made while employing the cut and paste technique. I first threw a volumous, bumpy bottomless cylinder. By treating the thin clay walls of this thrown cylinder like fabric, I was able to use a darting technique to achieve it's unique and volumous form. I especially like the feet that I added . The shadow produced below by the pot lifts it up off the surface that it sits upon. The fired surface of the pot is a stony matte texture. It was sprayed with Helmar kaolin and fired in a juicy reduction environment up to ^6. I was pleasantly surprised by the silver grey carbon trapping and soft orange flashing. This teapot pours really well.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Fast Fire Wood Kiln

This is the fast fire wood kiln that I mentioned below. It was built without mortar, so it can me moved fairly easily. It is made entirely out of soft brick. It is a cross draught kiln with a single bourry box. The fast fire aspect of it is greatly enhanced by using a forced air firing method. I used a blower from an air condition unit in the bottom mouse holes. It produces a very single directional air flow and that was reflected in the ash deposits on the pots. The forced air turned this kiln into a little dragon and in 10 hours cone 12 was down flat. I love this little kiln.

Woodfired Single Bud Vases

These single bud vases were wheel thrown in white stoneware. The top has been capped with limoges porcelain. They were fired to cone 12 in a small fast firing wood kiln that I constructed while on an artist's residency in Denmark. The unique grey markings are carbon trapping and the warm peachy tones are a desired effect of woodfiring calling blushing. They are glazed with a shino glaze on the body and a celadon on the top. The green drippy blobs are also a much sought after effect of melted wood ash.