From the Ashes

It had been a long time since I had spent quality time in my studio.  For the last year I'd been focusing my energy on our wine business in Germany, creating the website and marketing, and it left little time for ceramics. 

But I came back to it with a renewed sense of creativity and commitment to design, experimentation and sustainability.   I've decided to continue my exploration of natural and contrasting surfaces using soft colors.  

More than anything, I want to produce pieces with depth.  With purpose.  Functional but also full of soul.  Years of experience have taught me there are absolutely no shortcuts to this process.  To produce work of quality means going through many phases of learning and self-discovery.  The most enlightening part of this process for me is what every artist eventually learns:  to produce a certain simplicity, you have to know what you're doing.  You have to know what works.  

For me there have been a lot of misfires, stop and go periods, and difficulties along the way.  They still happen. But I have the sense that I am coming into my most meaningful work in the pottery studio.  

The longer I work at this, the more I want to produce works that have a natural quality.  I don't want to produce art in the pottery studio.  I want to produce functional pieces that have an artistic or creative bend.  Most important, I want to use as many non toxic materials as I can in the production of pots.  The one glaze that I love the most is a glaze made from wood ash.  High fired, absolutely pure, it is composed of only four ingredients:  feldspar stone, chalk, talcum and wood ash from my wood burning stove.  

Those four ingredients, mixed together at appropriate proportions and fired over 12 hours at 1240 degrees centigrade produce a beautiful glaze.

It can be gently colored, as it is in the photo above, with just a touch of cobalt.

There are no colorants in this glaze in the photos below.  Its honey colored and shading comes from the glaze ingredients. It's lush - and when it's applied thickly it looks like honey.  Where it's thinner it looks like milk.  

It seems like such a simple thing, to create a simple glaze.  But so many years of experience go into making one, and then making sure you're using the right clay to put it on, and to make sure you are firing it correctly.  

So I am busy in my studio designing new pots using this glaze.  Because I love its effect and gentleness. And because we produce a lot of ash as we heat with wood all winter.  So I can use the ashes to make beautiful vessels.  These pots are dishwasher and oven safe.  Which is kind of incredible, I think.  It has to do with the fact that they are stoneware, and fired at such a high temperature. 

i'd love your opinions on this natural way of creating durable pottery.