Earlier this month I was interviewed by Entoten owner, Ai Kanazawa Cheung about my work and process. I'm delighted to be featured in their most recent blog post, which includes some wonderful images taken in Entoten's new showroom in San Diego, CA. I've also sent a small selection of wood fired vessels, tableware, and sake ware for their online gallery. Please take a moment to read the interview and see the work for sale here.
Over the past few months I’ve taken the first steps in producing a new and exciting body of work that reexamines the role of natural materials in the field of ceramic art - particularly within the genre of ‘place-based’ making. While I have been wanting to pursue this work for quite some time, this project could not have been initiated without the assistance from the Jerome Ceramic Artist Project Grant provided by Northern Clay Center.
Throughout my career I’ve become mindful of how my preference for certain materials has defined the direction of my work. Focusing on vessel based forms produced using traditional techniques such as wheel throwing and hand building, I have emphasized finding natural clay resources that provide adequate plasticity for a workable material. While I have always sought to find clays that meet this requirement while still retaining a strong voice of earth (abundant stones and sand,) I recognize that it has forced me to view non-plastic resources as being secondary to the clay itself.
By abandoning the requirements of vessels and traditional techniques, I anticipate that this new sculptural work may help reshape this perspective and place an greater emphasis on non-traditional materials - stones, sands, aggregates, and sediments.
My intention for the project is to focus on several unique geological resources and settings which occur throughout the state of Minnesota. By researching the history of these formations, their impact on industry and Minnesota culture, and their properties in relation to the contexts of ceramic art and sculpture, I intend for each series to interpret and express the unique history of each setting through its own vocabulary of form, surface, and construction technique.
Fond Du Lac Series
I first discovered the Fond Du Lac formation in 2017 while looking for a self fluxing source that could be used in high quantities in my clay bodies. The deposit is exposed along a very localized stretch of land near the Duluth suburb of Fond Du Lac and along the St. Louis River - the largest river feeding Lake Superior.
The Fond Du Lac Sandstone is quite rare compared to others throughout the state in that, while most of Minnesota’s sandstones are composed almost entirely of silica from ancient igneous rocks, this formation contains a high percentage of orthoclase (potassium) and plagioclase (sodium+calcium) feldspar, clay minerals and eroded fragments from volcanic rocks of Keweenawan age, dating over 1 billion years old. Based on the publications I’ve researched so far, there are no other sandstones with the same mineralogical diversity and history exposed in the state.
The collected samples were fired to 2250 in oxidation to see the effect of their feldspar content. The results were varied, but most samples remained porous and easily breakable after firing - leading me to believe its application might not be best as a grog. After moving on to other options, I quickly returned to the potential of the rock as I began planning for this project. After tests of fluxing the slabs by soaking them in solutions of low fire clay before firing proved successful, I revisited photos of the natural setting for ideas on how to move forward.
Formed by seasonal rivers which carried sediments captured in glaciers, the sandstone displays remarkable expressions of cross bedded formations - strata that reflect the annual cycle of these melt-waters. The soft, shale-like slabs are broken free by the waters of the creek and are left in mounds - destined to be further eroded and carried into Lake Superior.
I was first amazed by the haphazard beauty of the jumbled piles of sandstone found along the creek and wanted to find a way of revisiting this sense of ‘arrangement’ in my own studio. Fragments of these rocks are dipped in a sandy, clay-rich glacial soil which acts as both a glue while assembling and a flux while firing. The pieces are fired in fire-clay troughs lined with refractory sands and aggregates. The liner prevents the pieces from fluxing to the trough but fluxes to the work itself, creating a historical sense of orientation that is used to visually support or contradict the overall expression of the piece.
The following tests show an interest in a balance between two approaches: My first impulse was to create rhythm, order, and emphasize the presence of line and composition. Yet I found it equally exciting to work with natural chance by picking up and dropping the soil covered rocks into naturally formed piles. My attraction to these unanticipated arrangements was more in line with my first impression of the rocks in their natural setting - placed in whatever order and position the waters are able to achieve. Even without conscious thought, these arrangements have remarkable grace and gesture.
I'll be hosting my summer online sale from Sunday June 3rd to Sunday June 10th. For this event I will be offering 20% off select tableware and new wood fired vessels with discount code 'Summer2018'.
I'm thrilled to announce that I have been selected as a recipient of the 2018 Jerome Foundation Ceramic Artist Project Grant, provided by Northern Clay Center. I will be using resources from this grant to pursue a new sculptural body of work that aims to challenge conventional ideas and practices related to the use of local materials in the field of contemporary ceramics.
Throughout my career, the creation of ceramic vessels from local clays has been a significant tool for studying the dynamics of place, regional geology, and natural processes. Over time, I've realized that this work's dependency on clay minerals with attributes of plasticity has largely restricted my search to a narrow range of natural resources.
By investigating ways of "forming" and firing stones, minerals, sand, and other non-plastic resources that would otherwise inhibit conventional forming techniques, I hope to achieve new expressions of my environment and its unique geological history that are unbiased by the language of the vessel and its technical requirements.
These works represent a selection of the approaches and forms I anticipate investigating. Aggregates are collected throughout the states and are kiln-cast in custom made crucibles using low-fire glacial clays, limestone, and crushed feldspar as sintering agents.
I'm excited to announce that my partner, Zoë Powell and I will be teaching two workshops later this summer. Both workshops have limited registration, and will be great experiences for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of wild clay locating/processing and wood firing. Registration and additional course information is available at the venue websites.
MID-RANGE WOOD FIRING
July 23–27, 2018
Mendocino Art Center
42500 Little Lake Street
Mendocino, CA 95460
Participants will load and fire the MAC train kiln using non-traditional methods and materials in order to emphasize the soft effects, stone-like textures, and rich iron color palettes of mid-range wood firing. Please note that the kiln will be fired to a cooler temperature range of approximately cone 4 to cone 9. Bisque fired, unglazed, sculptural work is highly recommended.
Wild Clay Weekend
August 23 - 28, 2018
Stone Bowl Farm
1258 Betts Bridge Road
West Pawlet, VT 05775
Participants will work through the stages of harvesting, processing, and testing wild clay materials in both oxidation and reduction atmospheres. Each workshop attendee will make several types of clay and glaze tests and will leave with an understanding of how to apply this knowledge to their own locations and studio practices.
This workshop will involve physical work as we explore the geology of Stone Bowl Farm and the surrounding area, as well as digging and preparing clay. Participants should plan and dress accordingly. The workshop will include both ^6 oxidation firings and ^ 10 firing of tests in the fast-fire wood kiln.
New 'Mountain Plates,' created for Steinbeisser's experimental gastronomy event in 2017 are now available for online purchase through their online store. In addition, they have featured a recent interview with me regarding thoughts on ceramics, the dining experience, and traditions. See the work and read the interview here.
Anagama fired vessels from the end of 2017. These pieces were all made with coil construction methods using Minnesota kaolin and brick clay. They were anagama fired for 4 days at College of Saint Benedict with pine, oak, and mixed hardwoods.
I'm pleased to be featured in the upcoming debut exhibition 'The Ancient Oceans' at Sage Culture, Los Angeles.
An opening reception will be held Saturday Nov 11th from 6-8 PM.
905 E 2nd Street, Unit 117
Arts District - Los Angeles, CA 90012.
Learn more about Sage Culture's aesthetic vision through the promo video below:
After nearly six months of clay research and testing, I'm thrilled to share my newest line of work - now available in my online store. Each piece is created with utility and design in mind featuring wild Minnesota clays and minerals harvested throughout the state. All works are food safe and non toxic. I will be continuing production throughout the winter and welcome custom order inquiries regarding specific sizes and designs.
Explorations of Minnesota's Northern Shore, Iron Range, and Saint Croix River
I've recently featured several new wood fired sculptural vessels made in Penland North Carolina as well as a small selection of sake ware from my final two firings in California. These pieces can be found in my online store.
I'm happy to announce this year's summer online sale, which will run from July 8 - 15. I will be listing a selection of new work from my final firings in California, and offering 20% off site wide starting Saturday at 9:00 central time in my online store.
I'm pleased to share a selection of recent sculptural vessels, available through the following galleries.
Click the gallery title to view additional photos of online.
Cavin Morris Gallery - New York City
Lillstreet Gallery - Chicago, IL
The Ren Brown Collection - Bodega Bay, CA
In addition, I have listed a small selection of recent drinking vessels, now available in my online store.
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of designing and leading the constructing of a train style wood fired kiln at Mendocino Art Center, in Mendocino, CA. The project began many months ago, staring with the deconstruction of the previous wood kiln. The Mendocino Train Kiln consists of an assembly of features collected from many designs throughout the country, with the core design originating from John Neely at Utah State University.
Modifications were made to accommodate the kiln's location in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with the primary goal being to reduce smoke emissions while increasing the efficiency of combustion in order to consume less wood without sacrificing the natural ash glazes of the final product.
There are many people who assisted in the construction who deserve much recognition for their hard work in helping this project reach its conclusion - Evan Hobart: the current ceramics program manager, ceramics artist in residents, and workshop participants.
The experience has reminded me of the requirement for hard work which lies at the core of this field. I'm happy to see this project in its completion and hope it functions as a great learning tool for the ceramics program and community.