Chad Brown enjoys making wood fired alkaline glazed and salted pots. Many of the shapes he makes today are like the ones his grandfather and great-great grandfather made. Chad focuses on two aspects of pots: shape and surface. The shapes are designed by him and the surfaces are decorated by fire. Occasionally the best shape and the best surface find each other; this is his forever pursuit.Groundhog Kiln
Chad will be firing the Groundhog kiln at the NC Pottery Center. Built by ancestors of the Luck family, this wood-salt kiln has a long history in this area of central North Carolina. Its an 60 cu/ft with a refractory quartz floor that is fired in the traditional groundhog style.
Donna Craven is largely self-taught, but nothing happens in a vacuum. She began as a Seagrove journeyman potter in 1996. She learned the basics by working in various local potteries among which were Humble Mill Pottery and Turn and Burn Pottery. In the summer of 2001 she built a small groundhog kiln. The first kiln opening was held that fall and she have been doing only her own work since then.
In 2010 Craven built a much larger groundhog style kiln that she continues to fire 6 to 8 times a year. Her goal is to create continuity between the form and the surface of a piece in order to bring it to life. She uses a variety of materials and techniques to accomplish this. At the present, taped decorations using manganese, crackle slips and ash glaze are interesting to me. As a direct descendant of Peter Craven, one of the original pottery families of the Seagrove community, she has a deep respect for the integrity of the Seagrove tradition. It has an honest and simple strength that rings true.
Michael Mahan fires for the effects of natural wood ash and flashing in his Manabigama, a cross-draft kiln designed by potters Bill Van Gilder and John Theis. His firing methods vary as he and his son have spent considerable time trying different ways of firing and cooling, using a wide variety of clay and local materials. Mahan built his first wood-fired kiln in 2009. He built a second kiln of similar style in Ireland in 2013, where he and his Irish wife Mary Holmes spend their summer every year. Michael has been making pottery since the early 1980s.
Michael was born in Miami, Florida, where he lived until he moved to Waxhaw, NC, in 1974, to live with his father. In 1977, he went to NC State University and studied writing and editing, working for the school newspaper and later for two small-town newspapers in Monroe and Asheboro, NC. It was while working as an intern at the Enquirer-Journal in Monroe that he developed an interest in pottery after doing a story on a potter there.
A couple of years later, Michael moved to Asheboro to work as a reporter for The Courier-Tribune. He discovered Seagrove, a small community 15 miles south of Asheboro where about a dozen potters lived and created functional pottery. He met his first wife, Jane Braswell, at the paper and they decided to open up their own pottery shop after attending production pottery classes at Montgomery Community College in Troy, NC. They called the shop Wild Rose Pottery and raised three children there while making decorative functional pots fired in an electric kiln. Michael’s son Levi now operates a pottery shop at what was formerly Wild Rose Pottery.
Levi Mahan grew up in Seagrove, North Carolina at Wild Rose Pottery, run by his parents. Since 2009, he has worked for and learned from his dad at From the Ground up Pottery. Levi has assisted with wood kiln building, loading, and firing for potters across North Carolina. He fires with wood while focusing on incorporating local materials whenever possible.
Fred Jonhnston’s origins in clay are rooted in the southern folk pottery traditions of North Carolina. Growing up in the rural south has given him access to its colorful history and characters, which serves as a wellspring of ideas. Storytelling is a regional pastime, consequently, he questions how a pot can tell a story. Yet his work draws from many cultures: Greek, Korean, Chinese, Pre-Columbian, European and Mimbres.
Johnston received a BFA from Alfred University in New York and a MFA from Penn State University in Pennsylvania before moving to Seagrove and establishing Johnston and Gentithes Pottery with his partner Carol Gentithes.
He continues to explore historical paintings, architecture, literature, sculpture and ceramics which he contrasts with the southern vernacular creating a hybrid and developing a personal language of forms and motifs. For example, he may use visual references from the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch or the literature of Joel Harris Chandler’s tales of Uncle Remus to redefine the archetypal jug form of the southern United States.
At the moment, Johnston is interested in the abstraction of nature. He questions how mark making and decoration accentuates form while at the same time contemplating what forms are best suited for a particular zoomorphic motif. He relies on intuition, spontaneity and what is visceral as a mode of creating, and believes that a pot truly reveals itself over time and use. Only through deep investigation can one begin to internalize their ideas into a growing and evolving personal vision. The journey continues.
Daniel Johnston and Kate Johnston dig most of the materials they use to make and glaze their pots. The pots are fired in a large 850 cubic ft wood-salt kiln. From digging the clay to firing the kiln they put all their effort into creating pots that have a powerful presence. It is important to them to create pots that are timeless but reflect the culture and times in which they live.
LOCAL CLAY & GLAZE
The idea of using wood ash and clay to create a glaze is several thousand years old. Different proportions of these two remarkable materials can give a wide range of amazing results. These two seemingly simple materials have produced glazes throughout time that are unparalleled in diversity and beauty.
Jugtown Pottery is a working pottery and an American Craft Shop located in a grove of trees and bamboo eight miles south of Seagrove. It is just off Busbee Road, a road named for Jacques and Juliana Busbee, the founders of Jugtown. Both artists with a love of craft and form, together they created Jugtown Pottery melding forms from world traditions with those developed in North Carolina. In 1917 they created a Southern Tea Room and American Craft Shop in New York City, and in 1922 they began stamping each piece with the circular Jugtown ware stamp.
The forms derive from simplicity and practice, a continuous line, then a complimentary glaze and occasional decoration. Drawing from the North Carolina tradition, you will find jugs, pitchers and candlesticks in wood fired salt glaze and frogskin, and tableware's in green, blue, brown and gray. Vases, bowls and jars in glazes made with wood ash, local clays, copper reds, greens and iron earth tones, have origins in world clay traditions.
Jugtown thrives on the aesthetic foundation laid out by the Busbee's. Vernon Owens, recipient of the NC Folk Heritage Award and the NEA National Heritage Fellowship, wife Pam Owens, son Travis Owens and daughter Bayle Owens are the main potters; while Bobby Owens mixes clay and glazes the pieces.
"It has been my goal, all my life, to carry on as much of the old traditional work as I can." --- Sid Luck
Luck's Ware continues the ancient art of wheel-thrown pottery near Seagrove, the "Pottery Capitol" of North Carolina. Sid Luck, a fifth generation potter, and sons, Jason and Matt, continue the Luck pottery tradition. This pottery tradition is observed in the shape of many old time functional stoneware pieces such as candle holders, churns, jugs, pitchers, and teapots.
Sid digs local clay to use in some of his pottery. One of the wheels he still uses for turning was originally in his father's shop. A wood-fired groundhog kiln, built in 2003, is used to produce salt-glazed pottery similar to that produced many years ago by Luck ancestors. Bricks from the kilns of Sid's father and grandfather were used in the construction.
Kirsten Olson is currently a resident at the North Carolina Pottery Center. She received her MFA from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 2014. Her work is inspired by anthropology and Northern Native design. Kirsten makes utilitarian ceramic ware that reflects the shapes and forms of Northern ethnographic objects. She fires in wood and salt kilns to reference the textures associated with these natural materials. Since arriving in Seagrove, she’s experimented with the local North Carolina clays and is beginning to incorporate these materials into a new body of work.
Kirsten will be firing the two chambered Noborigama kiln at the North Carolina Pottery Center, built in 2001 by Ruggles and Rankin.
During college, Ben Owen’s interest in form, design, and color piqued; and he began to forge his own unique path in clay. Through technical exploration and academic influences, Ben’s clay vernacular began to evolve. Travels in the US attending workshops and conferences along with a fellowship in Japan, extended his continued research. He has said, “My approach to working in clay is inspired by many influences. Tradition and vision merge to forge the future, as I honor the historic Owen aesthetic while creating a new, unique body of work. Culture, blended with influences in nature, inspire my work. With studies in China, Japan, Australia and Europe, as well as in the university setting, I have continued to create a unique identity from culture and nature.”
Ben’s recent passions have included glaze creation and experimentation. “For some pots, I use a four-chambered wood kiln with a firing process of up to four days. The prolonged exposure to ash and heat develops a wide range of color and texture on the clay. Other glaze techniques have evolved in a gas or electric kiln with a precision in temperature control to manipulate the finish. Some pieces are re-fired to develop layers and depth on the finish.”
Anne Pärtna is a graduate of East Carolina University (2007) and holds an MFA degree with concentration in Ceramics. She received her BFA degree from Estonian Academy of Art (2000), in her native Estonia where her family still resides on a farm on the Gulf of Finland. She threw her first pot on the hub of an overturned tricycle when she was nine years old while her younger brother spun the wheel. Anne prefers the volatile atmosphere of wood firing but also uses salt and simple glazes to bring the surfaces of her wide range of forms to life.
Anne and her partner Adam Landman live in Seagrove NC, where they are nurturing a partnership in business called Blue Hen Pottery.
Her Bourry-box kiln takes roughly 24 hours to fire with an overnight shut down. Small amount of salt will be used at the end of firing.
The wood kiln at The Clay Studio is a three-chambered Naborigama; one wood ash, one glaze and the largest of the three being a 24 cu/ft salt chamber. The kiln was designed and built as a collaboration between Takuro Shibata and Hajimu Kato of Shigaraki, Japan in 2006.
Erin Younge is director of The Clay Studio at STARworks, an educational and residency space connected to the clay factory on site. The factory mines local materials to create North Carolina sourced clay bodies for the ceramic community. Inspired by this process, she developed NC clay slips and uses them for her surfaces. When not exploring the local slips, her work is project-based and she uses various materials and techniques to build pieces that explore the relationships between history, religion and politics. Younge received a BFA concentrating in sculpture from UNC-Greensboro and an MFA from East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She has taught workshops and participated in exhibitions nationally.
Bill Jones grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and went to college and eventually graduate school to study architecture. In 2011, seeking a change of course and a more intimate interaction with material, Bill found his way to clay. Heading south to North Carolina, Bill studied at Penland School of Crafts and eventually he went to Seagrove to apprentice with sculptor and potter, Daniel Johnston. Since then he has been a resident artist at STARworks Ceramics and continues work there as a production artist while running his own studio in Greensboro, NC. Bill’s work is functional with a focus on strong, simple forms and gestural mark-making.
Hitomi Shibata is a Japanese potter who focuses on wood fired ceramics. She and her husband, Takuro Shibata, set up a pottery studio with two wood kilns at their home in Seagrove, NC. She uses wild clays from local sources (from STARworks Ceramics) and makes functional & sculptural ceramics. Wood firing is an important part of the process for her and believes it gives a sustainable energy and brings life into her works. She received a B.Ed in Arts & Crafts (Ceramics) and M.Ed in Fine Arts (Ceramics) from Okayama University, Japan. Hitomi completed programs at Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park (1996-1997), UMass Dartmouth (2001-2002), Cub Creek Foundation for the Ceramic Arts (2003) and NC Pottery Center (2005-2007). She received a Rotary International scholarship (2001-2002) and Daiwa Foundation Grant (2005-2006). She has participated in many shows, exhibitions, workshops and lectures in US, UK and Japan.
Takuro and Hitomi have an Anagama plus two chamber wood-fired kiln, and built a new smaller wood kiln within the last year.
They built their Shigaraki style Anagama (16 feet long, 7 feet wide and 5 feet high) with catenary arch salt chamber (6 feet long, 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall) in 2009-2010. They both were active potters in Shigaraki, Japan, and had many chances to help firing many different wood-fired kilns in US & Japan. It looks like a very typical Anagama, but it has some new ideas from American wood kilns, for example they made 4 side stoke holes (normally no stoke holes for Anagama in Shigaraki), and added big salt chamber to get a variety of results from the Anagama Chamber. Also, they made the second chamber's firebox bigger enough to be able to fire by itself. So they can fire just second chamber to make functional table wares if necessary.
David Stuempfle will be giving a tour of this kiln and studio. The newest kiln on site is a flame-shaped anagram built with the help of Estonian kiln builder Andres Allik.
The original kiln was built in 1992 and is a tunnel-type, cross-draft kiln, approximately 30 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 7 feet tall with side-stoke ports the length of the kiln. David fires twice a year, and firings range from 100 to 150 hours. Most of the pots are loaded through the chimney, with some loaded in through the front of the firebox.
Change, risk and growth are important aspects of working with clay. David tries to use the kiln a little differently each time by trying different woods, stacking patterns, and firing schedules. Although people who use wood kilns will achieve many results that are similar to one another, he feels that each kiln is capable of producing results unique to itself. It is important to be aware and receptive to the kiln personality both during use and when evaluating the results.