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Process

Design:

I design pots that are intended for daily use, and I am especially interested in creating work that can transform everyday routines, like making coffee or grinding herbs, into micro-rituals. I spend a lot of time sketching and refining new ideas on paper before moving to clay.

Materials:

I work primarily in stoneware clay and occasionally use porcelain.  They are both strong, dense, and durable materials that are well suited for the demands functional ware.  The glazes I choose are also designed for the rigors of daily use, and never include harmful materials like lead.

Tool Making:

Making tools is an important part of my studio practice.  I make many of my throwing, trimming, and texturing tools, and enjoy exploring the subtle differences that various shapes and materials impart into my pots.  Like handmade pots, these tools create a sense of ceremony when I use them.

Forming:

I appreciate the investigative feel of throwing pots on the wheel, and revel in the construction-like process of building forms from slabs of clay.  My work utilizes both of these techniques, and often a single piece will incorporate both methods.

At the wheel I produce forms in a series, making small changes in size, shape and finish along the way.  This kind of making is exploratory and improvisational, allowing me to respond to the clay in an intuitive way.  I try to capture this feeling as well as the receptive, elastic nature of clay as it turns in my hands.

Slab building satisfies a different interest.  I still work in a series and allow myself room to improvise, but I spend more time planning these forms and developing the methods I use to produce them.  I borrow a lot of tools and techniques from sheet metal fabrication and carpentry, and the building process feels more precise and analytical.  I often use found and homemade tools to incorporate surface textures into the clay as I work.  This adds visual and tactile interest, and allows me an opportunity to develop a language of patterns.

Firing:

My work is fired in fuel burning kilns up to cones 10-13 (2350-2400 F).  This results in durable pots with deep, rich surfaces.  I fire in both wood and propane burning kilns.

Using wood as a fuel source appeals to me for a number of reasons.  It’s a renewable fuel source, and as close to carbon neutral as possible.  The effects created by the combustion of wood and the resulting ash create complex, seductive surfaces that continue to intrigue me.  Just as important, wood firing keeps me connected to a group of friends and potters that are an important part of my life.  Firing with wood is a labor intensive process requiring months of preparation and a team of people working together; I love the sense of fellowship this collaboration creates.  I learned this process form two important mentors, Paul Herman and Joe Winter, and continue to fire with them today.  They have both become great friends, and working with them and learning alongside them is an incredibly rewarding experience.

While the wood kilns continue to hold the majority of my work and interest, I do occasionally use a small and efficient gas burning kiln.  This type of firing offers a clean, minimalist surfaces that I appreciate and find most appropriate for some kinds of pots.  Another advantage of the gas kiln is the ability to fire alone and in relatively quick making cycles.  This gives me a chance to test new forms, materials, and glazes at a faster pace than is possible in the wood kilns.

Post-firing:

After the pots are fired, there is one last step.  I lay all the pots out and inspect each one individually, cleaning and smoothing any rough surfaces and edges. I also take this opportunity to closely observe the finished work, looking for successful elements, interesting effects, and ways to improve.  This part of the process gives me the insight and motivation I need to begin the next cycle of work.

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