Monday, June 20, 2011

Dirty Work, with Pots Ablaze

The hard work of cleaning up from a woodfiring has to be one of the worst, most thankless jobs in ceramics. Nothing like handling sharp hot shelves, heavy brick, all covered in ash and fused bits of glaze. With dust masks on, gloved hands and eye protection, the work is slow going and SWEATY! Doing this in the Spring or Fall makes sense. And yet, so many potters fire their woodkilns in the heat of summer.

And the reason why: because when those pots come out, you quickly forget about having stood next to a kiln at two thousand plus degrees in 90F heat... all you think about is how cool the pots look.

As the kiln is slowly unloaded, shelves and bricks stacked, and pots sorted... it is time to clean off glaze drips and fused pots. Time to smooth out rough spots on the kiln shelves. Time to true up the ends of the kiln posts. Time to sweep up all the wads from off the bottoms of all the pots.

And lastly: To drink in the great pots. To bask in the glow of pots made miraculous by the wicked tongue of fire that coursed through the kiln for a day and a half. To see exactly where some pots got too close to the fire and distorted out of round. To see the smooth drips where the ash pooled and ran down the side. But most of all, to share with the other potters the awesomeness of firing with wood.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Woodfired Pots: Flashing, Ash, and WOW!

There is something very special about being asked to photograph the best pots from a potter's woodfired kiln. You know, right off the bat, that these pots have been through hell. And these, of all of them, are the ones special enough to make the cut.

These woodfired pots are more of Cary Joseph's work that I photographed at the end of May. These were fired in Julie Crosby's wood kiln. Much of the kiln had great flashing with not a ton of drippy ash to muddle the clean throwing style that Cary favors.

In many instances, I am only the second person (after the potter who unloaded the kiln,) to have ever held these pots. That is a sensational experience. To be able to run my hands over the rough surface, the ash slickened drips down the side of the pot, to feel the silkiness of the glaze inside... all transform this ball of fired clay into something magical. I always feel privileged to be asked to photograph pottery, especially when my friends are such great potters!