Thursday, December 6, 2012

"I feel a Change comin' on... and the best part of the day's already gone"...-Bob Dylan

New Work: Bobtail cups with celadon and crawl glaze.
The following post was, in part, inspired by a young woman, Laura, from the ceramics program at Indiana University who contacted me for some information about my work for use in an artist report.  Answering some of her questions renewed an inner dialogue on the subject of change within one's work.  

 Actually, I've felt a change coming on that is almost 2 years in the least, I've been thinking about it for almost 2 years....Any leap takes time and courage (two such things that I never seem to have enough of).   When looking at my work, I'd too often hear the murmuring in my head of "I love you, but I'm just not in love with you"...famous last words, I know!  Change in one's work and, more importantly, giving yourself permission to change can be a formidable challenge that can result in a creative quagmire, particular if you have had some success and received recognition for the work that you intend to change.  Gallery owners, collectors, some case, colleagues and even students..have come to identify you with a certain body of work- or, at least you'd like to think they have.  To make the conscious decision to abandon, even temporarily, a body of work in order to facilitate change, growth and development causes confusion and may even call to question the integrity of the artist.  Clearly, this attitude is counterproductive and serves merely as an obstacle on one's creative path.  And ask yourself,  who's steering this ship, anyway?

However, what people often fail to see are the years of small internal changes manifest  as subtle shifts in the work over time. This is not really any ones fault, as sudden dramatic changes are always easily noticed.  And, let's face it: as artists, we spend a lot of time thinking about ourselves and our own work.  A lot of time. Only many years later is it possible to look back and observe a common thread that weaves together an otherwise apparently disparate  body of work.  Looking back, an element can be traced to a particular time of development in an artist's work, and further scrutiny reveals that the result of  a small change or experiment  suddenly becomes  more cohesive over the course of several years.

More interesting, is the idea that you need to give yourself the permission to change.

Thanks to Robert Long, Lydia Thompson, and all the folks at MSU for
their hospitality.  Not the most flattering picture, but you get the point ;)
At a recent workshop that I gave with Robert Long's ceramics classes at Mississippi State University, we touched on this idea several times throughout the course of the 2 days I was there.  The gist of the conversation went something along the lines of this:  It's easy to blame academia for this "artistic identity crisis"...but academia, in and of itself, is not entirely responsible.  The structure of a 4 year BFA program encourages young students to choose a major, choose a medium, and choose a style, which they are then expected to develop into a comprehensive BFA thesis or exit show.  The next step is to apply to residencies of post - bac programs, and then on to a 2-3 year MFA program in which another body of work is produced for an MFA thesis show....and then on to apply to more residencies and, ..eventually...teaching positions.  And then it becomes your turn to perpetuate the cycle.

Granted,  this is a bit of a pessimistic interpretation of the way things work, although there certainly is some truth to it.  A better way of looking at it is to consider the parameters of the educational process to, in fact, be liberating rather than constricting to one's creative development.

Put it this way:  When I was younger, I was always torn between wanting to make functional pottery or sculpture.... (not an uncommon dilemma)...and it really bothered me that I should be forced to choose between the 2.  After all, if a sculptor wanted to work in wood one day and paper or styrofoam, the next, who would argue?..Now, instead of looking at this as being forced to choose, it is much healthier to see it as, in fact, permission to really investigate a certain idea, style, medium, etc, for a finite period of time.  Graduate school is just an intensified version of this process, in which a specific body of work is developed over a specific period of time.  And, during that time, the depth of that investigation and the exploration of the work takes precedence over just about everything else in one's life.  This, alone, is a luxury that is often taken for granted.  And then, at the end of it all, .....well.....time's up.  Now that you've solved a problem, it's up to you to move on or to continue to further develop the solution to that problem.  Either way is fine, you're in charge.

But, sometimes I think that we can get caught up in the mindset of having to constantly rationalize the desire to make a change to the point where it becomes a chronic battle of self doubt and second guesses.  While critical reflection is a healthy and necessary part of the creative process, it's easy to over- think things in the subconscious search for the conference of approval that remains as an artifact from the educational process.

Handbuilt porcelain teabowls with stamped textures, 2005.

Recently, I came across a box of old work from my first semester in graduate school that I'd socked away in a corner of my studio, behind the couch.  Images of some of this work are posted on my website but some aren't and, for one reason or another,  I suspect I may be removing them in the not too distant future.  Also, I never include these in any of my PowerPoint lectures because, until recently, I figured they were less relevant to where I'm at now and, frankly, might be just too confusing.... But, I've been wrong before. (And I really doubt anyone is concerned but me).
Tiny sculpture, circa 2005
Tiny sculpture, circa 2005

I've always thought fondly of these little guys, most of which are only about 3-4"tall but look big in photos,  and have often considered revisiting them.  At the time, I was working out of a corner of the undergraduate studio at the University of Georgia and living in the backseat of my car.  (This was not entirely by choice.  I had, in fact, recently relocated to New Orleans to begin my MFA at Tulane University but Hurricane Katrina had other plans).  And, in hindsight, there was something quite liberating to work within the unique parameters of having to fit you, your belongings, and everything you make over the course of a semester into the back of a Pontiac.

Upon returning to New Orleans in January of 2006, I continued to explore
this direction, while simultaneously working on a body of work that consisted
of mostly wheel thrown and altered porcelain pots.  Eventually, a choice had
Tiny Sculpture, circa 2005
to be made, and, well.....the thrown and altered porcelain vessels won.  And it has been a body of work that I've concentrated on developing over the past 7 years.  But lately, I've felt the pull of these miniatures more and more.  They are the quintessential intimate object, and it is in exactly that nature that these pieces remain relevant in the context of my work.

As far as physical resemblance to the rest of my work is concerned, the reference to the vessel form and porcelain seem to be the only common ground.  While stoneware often gets all the credit for having its own "character", porcelain is a fine, beautiful, and sensitive material like no other.  I'm captivated by the way that it feels when you work with it, be it on the potter's wheel or while hand building.  No other clay allows a glaze to sing with such brilliance, yet unglazed porcelain  that is fired to the point of vitrification has a beauty all its own to both see and touch.  And I'm really liking the interplay between the glazed and unglazed surfaces on some of the new work, particularly on the bobtail cups shown above.  The white crawl glaze adds a third voice to the conversation, and offers a further sensory stimulation, somewhere between the glossy celadon and the smooth, sanded and polished raw porcelain......

Bobtail cup and covered jar with pierced handles

As of 4:45pm today, my fall semester teaching ceramics comes to an end, and i look forward to getting the chance to be a full time artist again, even if it's only for a month.  I've got a lot to chew on .........and change is exciting.

Happy Holidays:)

Sunday, August 19, 2012


It's amazing how quickly the time passes.  "A moment ago" becomes "a year ago" almost while you are asleep, and you put off that phone call or email  (or, in this case, blog post) for one more month......
Which brings me to my point...

Last July, I organized a group of ceramic artists with ties to the Gulf Coast to participate in an Artists Invite Artists session at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine.  Actually, the "organizing" part happened about a year and a half earlier, starting with a written proposal of the session to the Board at Watershed, almost a year's wait to hear if the session was to be approved, and culminated with a mad rush to find enough folks who were interested in attending.  This is where that whole "Eternal Sunshine of My Spotless Mind-thingy" really works wonders: All of the planning, and begging, and coordinating, and running around is all but forgotten. Instead, I am left with the fond memories of a group of what has to be some of the most remarkable people I've had the pleasure to work with, and I think they should be acknowledged here.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with how an Artists Invite Artists session at Watershed works, prepare to be enlightened:

Tyler Gulden, Programs Director, and Dana.
Step 1: During an even of Guinness at an NCECA conference an artist (in this case, me- though it is usually someone who is much more renowned, respected and responsible) comes up with what, at the time, seems like a brilliant idea for a 2 week session at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, and pitches it to the Director (..that would be you, Tyler) or Board Member.  Our session was originally planned as a New Orleans ceramic artists' session, to be billed as "MidSummer Mardi Gras".....not the most original, I know, but you have to play to your strengths.

Step 2:  Write a cleverly worded and articulate proposal to said Board, wrapped in $50 bills and mailed to Maine with a box of New Orleans pralines.

Step 3: Wait.

Step 4: Find at least 7 other artists who you can convince that it would be a "really good idea" for them to pay to spend 2 weeks working together halfway across the country. (Trust me: it is!)

* repeat Steps 3 and 4 for the next 16 months*

Step 5: Go to Maine and spend 2 weeks making work in a barn/studio situation that defines the word "rustic".  (Tip: Bring your own light bulbs! Seriously, it's better currency than cigarettes in prison).  And don't forget your mosquito repellent.  By the gallon, if possible.

...the studio
Old Salty.
Watershed is a unique situation in that there's no teaching or workshop component to the session.  Everyone sets up in a communal studio and just makes art.  In some cases, this means refining an idea for  a body of work, in others, it may simply mean taking the time to make something that you might otherwise not give yourself permission to make in your own studio.  Depending on the session, you could be a junior in college working right next to one of your clay heroes, it doesn't matter, everyone just does their thing and makes work.
I'm still trying to find some images  of the teapots
that I made with the  local red clay. (Actually, they're on my phone, which is not an iPhone, and I have no idea exactly how to get them onto the computer!)  This was a big step for lil' ol' porcelain- throwin' me, and it was refreshing to work on a kick wheel, spinning slowly with a great big hunk of red mud! ...that stuff's banned from my studio, usually.  I still keep these pieces around and, after a year, it's been interesting to see how the touch and aesthetic has crept its way into my recent work.
So instead, here's some images of the crew at work and play.  I must also confess that I have probably the worst collection of photos from this session! There's a Dropbox file somewhere, and most of the other folks took much better shots.  But, hey,'s my blog:)  Hopefully I will be able to upload some better pictures, but until then:

John Donovan...working on the bunny!

.....Lisa Ehrich.

Our session consisted of:

John Donovan, John Gargano, William and Rachel DePauw, Stephanie Rozene( and her awesome husband, Brendan Aucoin), Lisa Ehrich, Liz Bryant, Dana Chapman-Stupa (accompanied by her husband, Rick- another awesome guy!), Lauren Duffy, Dori Zanger and Mark Yudell (both from Israel) and Shauna Cahill, as our session assistant....oh, and me.

....this can't end well:)
Clearly, this band of hooligans was more than capable of rising to any challenge set before them. I assure you, no Mill Pond bridge was too high to jump from, no quarry too cold to swim in, no local red clay too rocky to throw with,  no Pabst Blue Ribbon too warm to drink ...(Well, what did you expect from a session billed as Midsummer Mardi Gras?! Hello, Board Members, you knew what you were getting into! -'just kidding, of course-we love you and hope you had as much fun as we all did....where's that little winking smiley face?  I need an emoticon!).

I'd also like to send a big "THANK YOU" to the incredible Watershed Summer Staff!!  Without all of you guys and you're hard work, none of this would've been possible!

In the immortal words of Watershed summer staff/cook Adam Redd, "In just the first week you guys managed to out-drink the previous session of wood firers, burn all of the firewood for the rest of the summer, and consume 5lbs of bacon!"

Redd, all i can say is, "You're welcome".

Stephanie Rozene, with a family of beautiful bowls..

...a new cross draft wood kiln. train kiln.
And we made work. A LOT of work.  A TON of work!  It's truly amazing just exactly how much stuff you can make when you have almost unlimited time to focus on being in the studio.  Most of us haven't had that kind of  time to work uninterrupted since grad school and, even then, there were other obligations to meet.  We were fortunate to have our 2 week session include the annual Watershed Salad Days fundraising event, and be treated to good food, live music, a pottery sale, and plates by Salad days arstist Gratia Brown!
J. Donovan's Bunny Warrior, drying..
..the remnants of the old beehive kiln, soon to be the stage for
a psychedelic dance party, courtesy of Shauna who "just happened
to have a trunk full of glowsticks.....Hey, you never know, right?"

Ok, so maybe  it's easy to make light of the situation now that it's a year or so behind me but, in the end, everything worked out better than I could have ever planned.  And for that, i'd like to sincerely thank the folks who were originally on the list that had to drop out.  I'm being totally serious here: if not for you all (....sorry, i meant "y'all"...) this session would never have happened the way it did.  Ok, so we had to end up stretching the New Orleans/Gulf Coast connection a bit to include some of the amazing artists who were tapped at the last minute to plug the gaps and meet the quota, but, in all honesty, there's no way that I could have possibly planned or picked a better group of people to work with.  That all just sorta happened on it's own.

Monday, May 21, 2012

...Of Sore Feet n' Fly Ash. teapots from the wood kiln, May 2012.
     Every once in a while Mother Nature steps up her game to rub it in that, no, I am not 22 years old anymore.  These harsh reminders come in many shapes and colors, ....though, mostly shades of grey (which is why i started shaving again)...and mostly having to do with pain.  This isn't about the agony of defeat, the pain of failure, or the hurt of rejection; things that, ironically, age actually can make more bearable.  Hell, I can (..and, especially as of late, did..) stare failure and rejection in the eye with little more than a grimace and a double bourbon and let it wash over me like a spring shower.  No, we're talking about physical pain, the kind that makes you reach for the frozen strawberries in the icebox to use as a cold compress on your knee after a loping jog that you pretend to call exercise (..I know, I know...we have ice cubes but now why would you want to go wasting them?!'s almost happy hour.)

     Physical Pain and Stamina (or lack thereof).   There's nothing like firing a wood kiln in the heat of late spring in southern Louisiana to make a body question its ability to cope with one or the other.  Winter doesn't stay around very long down here, and spring is equally fleeting.  No sooner has your neighbor cut the sleeves off his t shirt than does the sun become your enemy and conspire to drain you of every drop of fluid in your body all at once.  Working under a 3-walled,  tin roofed kiln shed certainly doesn't help matters any, and, when you add the close proximity to 2300 degrees of wood kiln heat, you basically have a convection oven.

LtoR: Jenna, Shea, Katie, James, and Jeff ( BossMan) Brown
But, fortunately for me, I had this crew:

(scary and formidable, I know...)

So, i'd like to take the rest of this time to highlight the various and sundry accomplishments of this crack team of kiln firers who made possible the pots that i will almost certainly post throughout this blog with the pride of shameless self- promotion;)

This wood kiln was built by Jeff Brown, Associate Professor of Ceramics at Nicholls State University in Thibodeaux, LA.  The design for this particular kiln is called a manabigama, based on a kiln originally built by John Thies.  It is intended to be  the perfect "educational" wood kiln, able to reach temperature in a reasonably short amount of time (approx. 8-15hrs.)  without consuming too much wood (less than a cord) but still allowing for great ash build up and results similar to that of a much longer kiln firing.  And, even though this is only my second time firing it, I love this kiln!  ....even if it did try to kill me.

To be fair, it was not really as much the fault of the kiln as it was my own pyro-child fascination with  fire coupled with an  undeterred belief of living in a state of suspended adolescence.  And, what can i say?...i like to be part of the action.

....Shea "The Hammer" Johns, in action!
The three folks who braved the hour long trek south of New Orleans to bayou country were students, or former students, of mine from both Tulane and Loyola University, respectively, (actually, Katie, i guess you were never technically one of my students..but who's counting?) and i cannot say enough about the quality of character displayed by these individuals.   It's one thing to go through all of this when you know and love wood firing, but it is entirely something different to volunteer for such an endeavor solely based upon someone else's (me!) cheering about how magical it is.

...And, when i had to sit my dehydrated, boney butt down in the air conditioned studio to prevent an impending blackout, it was this crew of much younger and more supple backs who fought the good fight and went the distance!

Wood firing is a great learning experience and, when
....."Jesse" James Mooreside, on deck....
it comes to bonding, is almost without equal.  From the very beginning, the entire process is dependent on a team effort.  Splitting and stacking wood is just as important as learning how to load the kiln and place pots in order to achieve the desired effect from the lick of the flame and the deposits of fly ash.

And, while this particular kiln was designed to be able to be fired by as few as 2 individuals, it becomes exponentially easier and more fun with a group of dedicated kiln firers.  I use the word "dedicated" on purpose, because safety and sanity rely on everyone pulling his or her own weight for the good of the group.  All it take is one bad apple,
or four too many Type A control freaks and your
......for She is hungry, and must feed!
in for a loooong day of firing!

In a past post I've mentioned the importance of a healthy group dynamic when it comes to wood firing, and my first experience with this kiln back in November was, arguably, one of the most positive, easy-going firings I have been involved in.  Much of this I attribute to the leadership and personality of Jeff Brown, who calmly steers the ship on course while, at the same time, laying back and allowing newcomers to take the helm without fear of going awry.  This firing was mostly left in what proved to be the very capable hands of a few first- timers.

....Super Hero Katie Whistler, suited up!

..raking the ash pit.

And here, as promised, are a few more pictures of the fruits of our labor.  The following pots are special to me because they represent the first series of stoneware pieces that I've made, in earnest, for quite some time.  Most of my work for the past 10-12 years has been in porcelain, with stoneware being (often unfairly) relegated to in- class demo's. You know, those pots that sit around on the window sill or shelf after bisque firing...mostly for reference purposes.  But, there's something innately satisfying to working with stoneware, kinda like petting a big dog, where you can smack it hard on the butt and wrestle with it and tussle and it will always stand up for you and lick your face and wag its tail.  Porcelain, on the other hand, is much more feline; you have to touch it just a certain way to make it purr and it demands a lot of attention, but when it loves you, boy does it love you!
Anyhow, this past firing has really ignited my interest in working with stoneware again and, with any luck, these group firings can become a regular
occurrence.  I only hope that I'll continue to have the good fortune to work with these folks again.

.....teapot with textured surface, unglazed stoneware.

..front view,  my favorite teabowl , stoneware with shino glaze

...same teabowl, different side.
........If you happen to be travelling in or around the greater New Orleans area, many of these pots are now on display at the Carol robinson Gallery on the corner of Napoleon and Magazine St. 

Monday, April 16, 2012


...This is my favorite of the bunch. It has been donated to the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts for sale at the Watershed 25th Anniversary auction, July 14th, 2012.
....Sooooo, it's been a long time since this much- neglected page got updated and I figured, hey, why not post some teapots from the most recent kiln firing?....

With less than 3 weeks left in the spring semester, I look forward to getting back into the studio with limited interruption.  Of course, this also means limited income, but, with any luck, a pending commission will ease the pain of living (and staying cool) during (yet another) a southern Louisiana summer.
Teapots are always a challenge.  These days I feel like I'm a seasonal potter, that is, I work in a series, over the course of several months, on variations of of theme.  They say that, in Louisiana, there are 3 seasons: Crawfish season, Festival season, and Hurricane season.  For me, March 2012 marked the beginnings of Teapot Season, which should continue for a few more weeks into May before the heat conspires to return my tin roofed attic studio back to an official Level of Hell....which, come to think of it, is probably much closer to its natural state, anyway.  This means that, despite the 97% relative humidity at any given second, pieces dry out remarkably fast.  And, more often than not, the sheer physical and mental motivation required to be there for any more time than you absolutely need to is, shall we say, less than conducive to the nurturing and care required to make a good teapot.

A truly good teapot can be elusive, therefore making it a challenge worthy of much time, effort, and hollered profanities.  (*shakes fist at roof*).  First and foremost, many of the most beautiful, interesting, and challenging teapots tend to exist primarily as sculptural objects that just happen to also pour tea...often not very well.  Before you object, let me say that I'm not pointing fingers here nor claiming any moral high ground.   I've made (and continue to make) some teapots that require the user to really have to want to use them to make tea.  Sure, they'll function, but there is a difference between function and utility.
On the other hand, many of the most functional, utilitarian teapots can be, well....kinda boring.  I know it may come across as potter heresy or art school snobbery, but it's often true.  Take, for example, the classic 1970's stoneware teapot. I'm not going to post a picture of one because I believe, if you close your eyes, you can picture something along the lines of this: A squat, round wheel thrown pot (complete with throwing rings)...with a spout that's a bit too large (sort of looks like it would be more appropriate for a goblet stem)..a flat, mushroom shaped finial on the lid...with a pulled handle or, *gasp*, a bent reed bale handle.....glazed in a stony white, or pale blue, or yellow, ..with iron spots.  Now picture this in black and white, like an old Ceramics Monthly photo.  Yup, know what I'm talking about.
...spouts too small, without enough angle.

The thing is, those pots tend to be pretty darn good teapots.  They hold enough for several cups of tea, they pour well and (hopefully) won't drip, and their lids fit.  All in all, they deliver.

Therein lies the challenge of crafting the teapot.  The architecture of the teapot is fairly complex: handles must balance with spout and body, spout must integrate with body, body must have the proper proportions, lid must fit, finial or knob must compliment the form.  In other words, it has to look good. Or, at the very least, provoke some thought and interest.  Oh, and then the thing actually has to work!.....and that's a lot to ask of a little pot.

..this spout may be a bit long for my taste.  'could use more curve.
           Add to all this the precedent, both contemporary and historical, of the sculptural teapot and you've got a whole other conversation on your hands.  

Fortunately, there are lots of contemporary potters in the world who manage to achieve this balance.  Mark Shapiro and Linda Sikora, are the first two that come to mind, along with Lorna Meaden, Allegheny Meadows, Tara Wilson, Sarah Jaeger. And, one of my personal all time favorite potters, Mary Louise Carter.  There are many, many others.....I should have included pictures, but a quick Google search of any of those folks should put you on the right track.  Happy potting!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Year, New Post

It amazes me just how quickly two months can slip by with hardly any notice.  Of course, at the time.....:)...well,...

I just finished installing a show of wood fired student pottery that was the result of a collaborative firing with my students from Loyola University and Jeff Brown's ceramics class at Nichols State University, down in Thibadaux.  The firing took place the weekend before Thanksgiving break, and it's refreshing  to see the pieces again, only this time framed within the context of a small gallery setting.

The basic ingredients for a healthy and successful woodfiring are (in my opinion and, in no particular order):
-Plenty of good, dry wood. Check.
-A well designed and built kiln that is not so challenging to fire to temperature for the novice that the learning experience becomes a battle against the pyrometer. Check.
-A group of committed, enthusiastic participants who are polite and considerate to one another in the midst of hard work. Double Check.
-At least one experienced person to coordinate the firing. This person should be compassionate to the challenges of folks new to the firing process, accepting of the fact that the occasional mistake is not the end of the world and should be viewed as a learning experience, and possess the assurance that everything will work out just fine.  This person can take charge without being too bossy or overbearing, but is able get things done when they need to get done. Check. (BTW, Jeff...that's you).

...After that, it's up to the fire.

            I learned (sort of) to woodfire while still a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, back around 1997 or so, this, i mean that participated in wood kiln firings out at Chris Gustin's anagama.  Mostly, I just stayed up all night listening to bluegrass, and the crackle of burning wood,  and sipped scotch; eventually stoking the kiln when i was instructed to by those who knew better, in this case, grad. students or Chris, himself.

Back then, it was a romantic process to me and the team spirit was thick in the air. I never really minded the long stoking shifts, and it got so that I really enjoyed the prep days of cutting, splitting, and stacking the wood.  Someday, I imagined, I might be the one who would work the chainsaw... but, for now, it was all for the good of the golfball (an expression I rarely hear but often use).

 Soon came the day, in the summer of 1998, when i, like most recently graduated art students,  found myself without a studio, free materials, nor a kiln of any kind, but still had the desire to make pots.  Finding a potter's wheel was the easy part, though I was quick to complicate the matter by purchasing a very large, heavy, kick wheel which i then proceeded to move from apartment to apartment in the back of my van . (note: To  all of my friends who assisted in this task, I would like to thank you wholeheartedly....and sorry 'bout your lower lumbar spine(s).
As far as i am aware, this wheel still remains at it's final resting place in the basement of an old house on Chestnut St. in New Bedford, MA, from which we were suddenly, and quite forcibly, evicted in 2001.  So, if any of you UMass kids want to know where you can find a wheel............;) email me.

The kiln, however, was a different matter.  I certainly could not afford to purchase or build a gas kiln and I was (am) too stubborn to submit to the idea of electric kiln firing, so I sort of became a wood kiln potter by default and necessity.  I know, not the romantic, "From the time I first dug a lump of clay, I knew with my soul that I must be part of the process and tradition in it's entirety and fire with Wood!" that you probably expected but, it's the truth:  If you're willing to work (and, often times, pay) you can usually get some pots in someone else's wood kiln a few times a year. And so, for the five years from 1998 to 2003,  I loaded up my pots and travelled to other peoples' wood kilns to fire them. And, once in a great while, the kiln gods would smile on me I'd end up with a nice piece.  This was rare- mostly I ended up with a sinus infection.

This time around, I find myself on the other side of the fence.  Sitting there with my own students,  smelling the split pine and oak logs, and the reduction fumes wafting through the air; watching the flame while trying not to obsess over the pyrometer.....counting the rhythm of the stoking cycle.... I can't help but smile, as I imagine this is what it possibly might feel like to be a proud father,... or, at the very least, a proud pet owner watching his dog do some really cool trick.  Either one.  But one thing is for sure, and that is that this experience stands in marked contrast to the last time I saw 2400 F degrees by wood fuel......

           Prior to this firing with my class, the last time I participated in a wood kiln,was back in the fall of 2007, when I drove from New Orleans to Massachusetts with my friend and fellow ceramic artist, Seth Rainville.  Seth had been living and working in Arizona, and he and Chris had organized a group of Southwestern ceramic artists to come to Massachusetts and fire Gustin's anagama.  I don't clearly remember everyone involved, but that's Tom Coleman lighting the grill for a barbeque...Don Reitz was supposed to be there but I don't think his health, at that time,  permitted it.

Not your typical wood kiln firing...
...a little Hamada moment, Seth glazing by firelight at the last minute.

And, of course,  Steve caught a sand shark (or nurse shark, or something- shark) while fishing in the Westport river behind Chris' house.

How I wrangled my way into this I have no idea, but when Seth showed up in New Orleans after a straight drive from Phoenix, he crashed on my couch that night and we loaded up a box of pots to head out the next morning.  There were bits of dry clay everywhere in our wake,  and it took a long time for the owner of that couch to forgive me.

The following teabowl is all that exists (to my knowledge) from that experience.  I've always been quite fond of it, and it now lives in the private collection of the Carol Robinson Gallery here in New Orleans.