I received a BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology, School for American Craftsmen in 1977. My long year career as a full-time potter has been devoted to making beautiful objects for individuals and galleries who appreciate fine craft. I have received many awards for my creations and exhibit my work in many excellent galleries across the country. Four of my pieces are in the permanent collection at the Mint Museum of Craft and Design (Allen Chasanoff Ceramic Collection).
Clay and Fire: The Artistic Process
The clay I use is a custom made, fine-textured white clay. I use the ‘slab’ method of construction. With ‘slab’ construction large sheets of clay are rolled out, very much like pie dough, only bigger. At this point I press into the soft clay, textured sheets of foam plastic that I have drawn into with red hot tools. I achieve very intricate textures that the glaze can pool into. The slabs of clay are then draped into curved bisque forms I have made. When the clay is slightly stiff, I put two curved pieces together using a coil (snake) of soft clay. This is a very slow process but it allows me the most control to create any shape I want. Once the form is roughed in the branch or sculpted hardwood is added and fit into its place on the form. It must be removed before the clay starts to shrink as it dries. In the final stages of construction the clay is paddled, scraped and sanded until very smooth.
Ceramic colorants are then airbrushed over the form and bisque fired in an electric kiln. I then apply several layers of glaze on the inset textures and fire again in the electric kiln. The pieces are fired a third time to attain the smoked finish. My final firing is called Pit Firing. My Pit is actually an old oil tank converted into a kiln. It contains the combustibles, pots, fire and smoke. I pack the pots in a collection of solid combustibles such as hardwood sawdust, leaves, and straw. After the combustibles have caught fire, I cut the oxygen by placing a lid on the kiln. The fire still burns but makes a very smoky atmosphere in the kiln. The smoke penetrates the clay. The different combustibles leave interesting markings on the pieces called ‘flashing’. The smoke and flashings add depth and subtle nature images to the pieces.
After firing, the wood must be refit to the specific clay piece it was made with. This is because the clay shrinks as it dries and is fired. By slowly sanding and carving the wood is made to fit the clay again. The wood is then finish sanded, stained, and urethaned. The wood is then permanently attached to the clay piece. It is a long complex process, but I think it is worth the end result!