PREVIEW – Firing 101 – August 2019
How do you follow the 100th firing and all the fabulous festivities surrounding it? Well, you go back to basics and return to Pottery 101, if you will. Go out to the workshop, keep your head down, and be a professional. My Uncle Frank, an actor in London who never had a week without work during his long career, once commented that, “Even on a bad day a professional earns their money.“ Just get up and get on with it. So we did.
Ideas flow, shapes mutate, teapot lids change, and decorations metamorphose. I had so much fun slip-trailing my plates and bowls this time, putting bright-colored slips under the subtle granite glazes. Why not? Making mugs is always a delight, this batch of teapots is sweet, the vases and jars are fiery, and the pitchers are righteous.
No two firings are alike, this one felt wild and unpredictable; we got everything smoky and hot, but we were nervous about the outcome. Greatly to our relief, our Salisbury Pink granite glaze turned a luminous blue, the ash glazes became juicy and drippy, and my colorful brush mark splotches are lush and lively. Playing with local clay slips both as background and foreground produced delicate tactile differences on my mugs and tumblers, they’re a pleasure to hold and behold.
Mercifully, the summer making cycle and firing cycle is now over, we’ve sweated buckets, and Stillman and Will have been troopers. They’ve been making terrific pots too. Stillman made his first batch of animated teapots, an assortment of adorable small pots, and is now making some accomplished bigger pots too. Will’s time with Chad Brown and Ben Owen in Seagrove before arriving here gave him some good foundational skills, and he’s fitting easily into workshop. Welcome Will!
Stillman Browning-Howe’s pots
Another hot summer underway.
It’s nice to be in North Carolina for all the heat this year. Spending most of last summer in England (despite being one of England’s hottest summers in recorded history) left me missing my home’s harsh humid climate.
I spent a lot of time thinking about English slipware while decorating my pots this cycle. Doing more slip combing than before, I’m playing with thickness of slip to try and encourage variation in color, as well as trying a few new clay slips.
One slip I’m particularly interested in is made from a local clay, Mitchfeild. Mitchfeild being a fairly clean clay body, becomes an attractive grey/white color when fired, but layer our ash glaze on top and it makes for a bright honey colored glaze.
Will Baskin’s pots
I have been throwing pots since high school. After Appalachian State University, my curiosity and passion for pottery continued to grow. I visited potters in Seagrove and fell in love with the heritage and history of wood fired pottery in North Carolina. I did a short-term apprenticeship with master potter Chad Brown and decided to pursue pottery as a fulltime occupation. Having learned about the important role Mark has played in North Carolina pottery and meeting with several of his previous apprentices, I was ecstatic when Mark offered me an apprenticeship.
Firing 101 has concluded my first full cycle at the Hewitt pottery. Although I’ve only been working here a short time my knowledge for pottery has grown immensely. I used to throw sitting down, now I throw standing up and it’s much more ergonomical. I have especially enjoyed throwing barrel mugs and have seen my skills improve.
It’s been wonderful getting to know Mark and Stillman better over the past months. Whenever I have a question they are both eager and willing to help me out. I’m already looking forward to the next cycle and I am eager to improve.
Our Firing and Pot Cleaning Crew
We’ve also had wonderful assistance with the loading, firing, and cleanup from Stephen Lyn, born in Jamaica but living in St. Vincent, Dylan Cremins, from Charlotte but now a student in Germany at the Keramikschule in Landshut, Bavaria, and to cap it off, our prodigal potter, Hamish Jackson, arrived back from Japan just in time to lend a hand cleaning the pots. It’s been a delight to hear all their stories from far away.