One of the numerous reasons to live with art, not that you need a reason, is that you never know, when encountering an example of it, a book, a movie, a ceramic bowl, a new song, how much of what you notice is really in you and how much is in the work itself, if any.
This bowl came out of the kiln earlier in December and looking at it in the pile of work unloaded onto the plywood table in the studio, I thought I saw a lot in it — a beginning and an end, an airy lightness, a swirl of gravity spinning outward, the center hopefully holding.
But maybe that’s just me? It has been a swirling time of transition, here at the end of 2019.
Over these last couple of decades I’ve moved my studio several times, adapting each new space to the wheel and the wedging board, the shelving and water buckets and the plywood-topped table. Old adobe buildings, they never have plumbing, which is fine, and a beginning ritual is always stringing extension cords & drilling through the thick dirt walls to run electrical conduit. I adapt the space, and inevitably the space adapts me a bit — my work probably changes.
The time for this ritual seems to have come again. Wheeling the big plywood table out & putting it in the truck, digging out the dusty pots that’ve been around for years & letting them go, driving all kinds of equipment in repeated pickup loads to the new place.
I think it’s a good sign that this time, behind the new building I’m about to re-purpose, I found a fifty-five gallon drum filled with several years of wood ash from the stove in the house — I’m moving back out to the country. There’s enough in the drum for fifty kiln loads at least of ash glazes.
Here’s a first piece glazed with ash from the new source. You see it’s runnier than usual – I think the woodstove burns hotter and the ash is finer, more pure, and no doubt has a different chemical makeup from what I’ve been using. Most wood ash contains amounts of calcium carbonate and calcium oxide (quicklime) as well as silica and an assortment of other metal oxides – so that it works as a powerful flux in the kiln and also provides glass-forming minerals.
About three thousand years ago potters started using wood ash to produce glazed stoneware ceramics (in China). While moving out, and moving in, and driving a pickup truck around, that is a fact to ponder.
Green River Pottery’s current gallery & studio locations on Lena Street in Santa Fe will remain. My work will still be available in the gallery as always — pottery classes will continue & the schedule should fill in even more — what hopefully will change with the new year is a return to a bit of that concentrated, hermetic, worktime that in the past — back at the beginning, back in that first little plumbingless adobe building — helped me see my way forward in clay.