Sunday, June 19, 2011

quiet time is a wonderful thing

June 16th

The conclusion of our kiln building workshop has left me with ample studio time. I've been able to put in at least seven hours a day which has greatly helped me in developing a new body of work, processing local clays and slips for experimentation, and doing some undisturbed thinking. The concept of one's relation to place and the creation of a body of work which reflects that has been weaving its way throughout my my mind. I found it necessary to really figure out more about this place: the geology, history, landscape. Extended walks down Wheelers Spring Road have helped in developing an awareness of my surroundings and the qualities/emotions they convey. Of particular interest has been the effect of nature on man made objects over time. One may find this in the barns, fences, and buildings in historic districts anywhere. However, there is something about the abandoned barns and sheds out here that is truly captivating.

I've been trying to apply this awareness of nature's ability to transcend man made structures and objects over time to my own work. Pottery, being a collaboration between the maker and material, appears to be quite an appropriate way of studying such interactions. I'm looking forward to further studying the effects of natural phenomenon on my work with our new anagama which we will be firing for the first time on the 15th. I'm hoping that I'll be able to develop a diverse body of work which will capture the effects of the fire in both the realms of functional pottery and sculptural vessels.

small bowls thrown from the hump and waiting to be trimmed - local red clay

mugs and plates

coil built jar - local red clay, dry white clay applied to exterior

coil built cylinder - local red clay, dry white clay on exterior

coil built vessel, local red clay


My time the past few days has been spent crushing and screening the local white clay from the river bed to create a white slip for the rich red clay. I've been really drawn to the gestural way the wild grasses fall when they wither in the heat and have applied this idea to a new area of work.

The same grasses and wheat plants seem to make wonderful brushes. I'm hoping to experiment more with these and other handmade tools made from the materials of my surroundings.

local white clay deposit deep in the woods

harvested clay. relatively white/light tan with veins of red clay. High silica stone content which will be screened out before use

once the clay is screened through a window screen it is crushed by hand with a dowel.

further screening is done with a glaze screen to collect the fine particles.

handmade grass brushes, wooden carving tools

cups, local red clay, native white slip, handmade grass brushwork

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

never quiet during the day, never dark at night

To call my second week at Cub Creek a whirlwind would be an understatement. Our kiln building workshop began on Saturday with a brief lecture of the task at hand – the construction of a new anagama to replace the old three chamber noborigama which has recently fallen apart. The kiln would feature a large ware chamber, a casted catenary arch, and a test wood fired soda kiln attached to the opposite side of the chimney. This small kiln will be an excellent teaching tool since it will allow residents to fire work quickly, and often.

With the help of a wonderful group of hard workers we began by laying out dimensions and the foundation of the kiln. Over the next few days the walls, chimney and floor were constructed, followed by the construction of a wooden frame to support the castable arch. Once the arch was set in place we lined it with plastic and began applying a castable refractory material in the insane summer heat. By Thursday the wooden frame was removed to reveal the semi cured arch.

This project has been a truly wonderful experience. Despite borderline dangerous working conditions we all came together and accomplished something extraordinary. In a few weeks the arch will be completely cured and ready to fired by early July.

(mostly) finished Anagama and wood/soda- awaiting a shed and more chimney work.

I have fallen into a pretty consistent work schedule already. Up early to beat the heat while working on the kiln until it becomes unbearable (mid afternoon.) At that point I have been heading into the studio to work on a few projects. Tools are being hand carved from wood, local clay is drying, and the first pots are being thrown for the upcoming firing. It feels wonderful to put in a seven hour day in the studio. I'm developing more functional ware which still highlights the qualities of my materials. Good discipline if nothing else.

The weather has cooled down today enough to sit outside and enjoy the surroundings. A wonderful way to end a long day in the studio.

foundation leveled with cinder blocks

laying the floor bricks for the ware chamber

leveling the walls

view from firebox

assembling wooden arch supports for castable refractory arch

applying castable

secondary stoke hole

We don't let the night stop us

Friday, June 3, 2011

Cub Creek Foundation

I arrived at the Cub Creek Foundation in Appomattox, VA on Monday after the largest road trip of my life. Here I'll be doing a year long artist in residence program with four other wonderful people. The weather is hot, the jungle weeds are taller than my house, and there is abundant clay, sky, and room to think and experiment. The director, John Jessiman lives over the hills and through the woods (literally.) He established CCF after many years as a working artist and teacher in New York and has already offered an unbelievable amount of compassion, advice, and ridiculous stories.

After graduating from Coe I was left with a good month to let the dust settle and really reflect on my ideas regarding clay. I came out here to experiment with local clays on the property which would be fired with wood harvested either on site or near by. It is my hope that whatever work I make – regardless of context, form, surface or ideas – speaks of the location from which my materials came. I am currently processing different clays to use for both sculptural work and thrown pottery. There is a clay deposit behind the studio consisting of rich red clay with a high percentage of kyanite – a material which melts only at high temps and thus allows it to be wood fired. The other is a sandy white clay found near the creek a ways away. Both are extremely raw and contain large stones and large clay particle sizes – making both very difficult to work with. I'll be experimenting with ways to increase the plasticity of the clay by either blending it with a different clay or sieving out all the large particles.

Tomorrow Cub Creek will begin its kiln building workshop where we will be constructing a large anagama (single chamber) style wood kiln to replace the massive and broken noborigama (multi-chamber) kiln. The construction will take all week with twelve people attending to assist. It will likely be fired in the next few weeks (hopefully) when the castable refractory roof cures and enough work is produced to fill it.

Here are some photos of the surroundings down here: