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earthen-wood kilns: smoke em while you got em

updated fri 14 apr 06


Elizabeth Priddy on thu 13 apr 06

Your friend john is making some very exciting work.
The dessert plates, 2005 are really beautiful.

Also, his horse imagery reminds me of Marcia and Qi
Bai-shi, two rather exceptional companions.

Please tell some more about he kiln Steven has made
and how it fires, how long, how much wood, etc.

Maybe some pictures?

I am serious about it. I am not interested in redoing
what has been done. It just is not my way. I can
love it sincerely and not want it for me. And I made
standard functional gas fired dinnerware and then
electric fired dinnerware for a full decade. So I
worked that out of my system and I have moved on to
more conceptual work. I am a priveledged character to
have this freedom and at the same time, I make certain
sacrifices to be doing what I want. Public success
can be a cruel task-master and start making decisions
for you. On the other hand, fame must be nice.

If I can be a part of making pottery more accessible
to the home studio potter and opening the dialog up to
new materials and innovative firing methods, I will
feel that I have succeeded. I am aware of concerns
about fossil fuels and simply believe that they are
not a long term solution for the planet. It has been
a sweet and convenient ride, but current world events
should be a harkening to a future without them. A
future that is probably a couple of hundred years off,
but coming nevertheless. So smoke em while you got

[please ignore if sustainable energy talk bores you
silly, but it is relevant in a big way to clay
concerns: I would actually love to see energy
concerns diversify and stop trying to OWN the whole
field. I think hybrid technology and appropriate
power sources is going to be the way.

Which means solsr for sunny places that don't have
storms that rip the panels off seasonally, nuclear
power in isolated places without terrorism, wind power
with more space than people, hydro-electric with
adequate water pressure to be viable.

If the world would start using appropriate and diverse
power systems and technology, the fossil fuel debate
becomes irrelevant as the demand will diminish and
what is left will possibly be enough forever.

But this vision of a utopian world would require
cooperation and sacrifice, so I am not holding my

In the meantime, I will use the fuel that is most
rational for the firing in question, as I said, gas
for raku, electric for slow bisque, and scrap wood for
a more visceral, extra crispy experience. But I am
not needing to flatten cone 13 to get my jollies. And
in fact, I like the clean number of cone 1. I would
fire to c00 but I haven't seen a clay body that
matures there. I am not about to go back and relearn
enough chemistry to formulate a clay body of my own,
though, so I will work with what is available.

What I see is a low fire earthen-wood kiln that fires
a pure white earthenware, opening the surface for lots
and lots of color options with colored slips stained
with velvet underglazes, not mason stains. I want to
work with the specific color I want, not imagine it,
and to fire it low enough to vitrify the clay while
preserving the colorful images. Also, I have found
that mason stains interact in a chemical way that
velvet underglazes don't. Velvets are pre-fired
microground pigments, as I understand it, and work
much more like cold finish paint. They work
excellently in coloring terra sigilatta and for the
control per dollar spent, are quite economical.

Could I get similar results if they stop being
commercially avaiable? NO. That is a risk I am
willing to take. I would also die if insulin stopped
being available, so I have embraced the concept of
better livin through chemistry in many areas of my
life. You can't let a fear of reliance on technology
paralyze you. I would rather embrace it and be part
of the fu-chah.

I have been inspired by some pit fired work by
contemporary Leach in UK where he works with pit and
barrel kiln firings in blue and green tones. I am not
going for brown at all, as I want to work with the
images of my environment, ocean colors and banker
ponies, a combination of loves. Any landsiders out
there might be curious to know that only dead ocean
with crystal sand beaches are truly blue. Where the
murky spores of life filter through the nutrient rich
waters, the ocean is a kind of cloudy grey green.
Only the prismatic reflection of light makes it blue.
And the bluer it gets the more like a swimming pool it
is. Those crytal blue Carribbean waters are
frequently on dead or dying coral reefs, which is why
you have to go out a ways on average for snorkeling
and diving with live reefs.

here on the Crystal Coast, as marketing wizards call
it, the crystal effect is not the clarity of the
waters but rather the shimmering light reflected off
the surface making the water sparkle with light. I
have only been able to see my feet in three feet of
water in the rarestof conditions as the atlantic shore
churns and burns. That is why the other coast is
called the Pacific. There is nothing pacifying about
life on the atlantic shore. Especially once you have
gone up in an airplane and seen the shark outlines in
close proximity to the same-sized surfers next to the
piers. Now that is a chilling sight...makes an
indoor, clean and chlorinated pool look quite

But back to your friend John, the texture of his
surfaces are truly inspirational.


Elizabeth Priddy

Beaufort, NC - USA

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lee love on fri 14 apr 06

--- In, Elizabeth Priddy wrote:
> Your friend john is making some very exciting work.
> The dessert plates, 2005 are really beautiful.

John is a former student of Mel's. John retired from teaching at
South High. I think the work at his website is gas fired, low temp
eathernware. I like the toasty feel. The Jaspe I saw in the
magazine had a similar feel.

> Please tell some more about he kiln Steven has made
> and how it fires, how long, how much wood, etc.
> Maybe some pictures?

I put up photos here:

We crossed paths with the steam locomotive on our way. Notice
that the kiln has a similar profile. Genveive just called. They
dropped cone 12 at 10 last night. Are about to crack the kiln, so I
am going over to see.

Steve as a CD of the kiln plans available.

Lee In Mashiko, Japan

Love is the virtue of the heart

Sincerity the virtue of the mind

Courage the virtue of the spirit

Decision the virtue of the will

--Frank Loyd Wright