NCECA In Review: Portland 2017. Concurrent Wood Firing Exhibitions: Ashes & Flux and Great Waves Over the Pacific.

These two wood firing exhibitions were held concurrently in the Chehalem Cultural Centre in Newberg, Oregon. Wood-fired pottery is what I am practicing and love, so I was especially excited to see these shows. The Chehalem Centre was a bit of a drive outside Portland, but we hooked up with some old friends and ate at a fantastic Korean market on the way.

In the interest of good record-keeping, I have written out the labels on the pieces as they were in the exhibitions, including their prices. I've also included links to the artists' websites where I could find them.

Great Waves Over the Pacific: On Wood Firing. (March 7 - March 25, 2017)

This exhibition focused on the influence of the artist Takashi Nakazato's influence on Japanese and American ceramics. Nakazato travelled widely around the Pacific learning and sharing methods of making. Takashi was born into a pottery family. His father was the twelfth in line of a long line of masters in the Nakazato family. They are the most eminent family in Karatsu, whose name has become synonymous with pottery. 

Takashi has pushed the traditions of his family, creating ceramics with a new vitality; he uses the term 'Karatsu Nanban' to describe his style. 'Nanban' refers to unglazed pottery which had long been made in other parts of Asia, such as Southern China, but never Japan until the sixteenth century. His influence in America has been in aiding the spread of wood firing unglazed work, especially in anagama kilns. The artist Ruri organised this show around these principals. Ruri fired the FuuKooGama, which she owns and operates, before the conference started with guest artists John Neely, Doug Casebeer and Chris Gustin. Wish I could have come out to see it in action!

I did not photograph every piece (should have in retrospect) but here is a smattering...

View from afar.

Flow, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $900.

Vase #1705, Chris Gustin. Stoneware. $4200. 

Vase #1704Chris Gustin. Stoneware. $3800.

Close-up of the above piece. I love the soft satin surface of these pots.

Just Like a Drop of Rain, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $1900.

Buena Vista Vase, Brad McLemore. Ceramics. $95.

Tea Bowl 2, John Neely. Wood-fired stoneware. $400.

Kaiseki for Two, Collaboration between Takeshi Nakazato, Fumiko Nagai and Ruri. Wood fired stoneware.

Small plate with wadding pattern, Fumiko Nagai, and Chop stick stands by Ruri.

Close up of Nagai's small plate with wadding pattern.

Square Platter, Brad McLemore. $175. 

Bardo, Ruri. Anagama fired stoneware. $900.

Considering Ruri's hanging sculpture. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

Gustin's gourd and I, getting intimate. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

Ashes & Flux. (March 7th - 25, 2017)

This exhibition was in the same gallery space as the Great Waves show, and the transition was easy. Ashes & Flux represents the wood-fired pottery of the North West. It concentrated on the work coming out of four anagama stye kilns: East Creek, Noble Hill, Pleasant Hill, and the FuuKooGama. 

The four kilns represented with a bit of info on each.

Central to this blossoming tradition is the East Creek Anagama. This was the first anagama kiln built in the U.S. west of the Mississippi. The project was started by Nils Lou, Frank Boydon, and Tom Coleman approximately 32 years ago. It was based on an eighth century Korean kiln. Made of over 5,000 hand cut bricks, it measures about 16 feet long, 6 wide, and 5 tall. Many students have come to help prepare for firings and take shifts firing the kiln. It was East Creek that spawned the other three anagama kilns included in this exhibition. I'll show the pots from East Creek first though.

Red Barron Flying Ace, Andrew Butterfield. East Creek. $80.

In front: Gourd 3, Lori Allen. East Creek. $350.
Behind: Funky Bottle, Lew Allen. East Creek. NFS.

Sculpture #2, Don Haskisson. East Creek. $320.

Whiskey Bottle with Tomobako, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $195.

Hammered Jar, Lew Allen. East Creek. $120.

The Better to Smell You With, Andrew Butterfield. East Creek. $75.

Cut of the Same Cloth, Mya Haskisson. East Creek. $200.

Cut of the Same Cloth, Mya Haskisson. East Creek. $200.

Steeler, Mike Helle. East Creek. $450.
I love this fish.

Steeler, Mike Helle. East Creek. $450.

Jar with Lugs, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $975.

Gourd 2, Lori Allen. East Creek. $350.

40lb Jar, Joe Robinson. East Creek. $1850.

Completed in 2004, the Noble Hill anagama was built (on a Christmas Tree farm) by Mark Terry. He was inspired to build his own anagama by years of firing at East Creek. It is only about 120 cubic feet (about a third of the size of East Creek's kiln). In its 13 years of use, Terry's kiln has been fired more than 60 times and served to introduce many young potters to wood firing.

Ariadne, Mark Terry. Noble Hill. $2800.

Bottle, Amy Burnham. Noble Hill. NFS.

Bottles, Amy LeFever. Noble Hill. NFS.

Drip Vase, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

Drip Vase, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

Whiskey Vase, Amy Burnham. Noble Hill. NFS.

Stoneware Teapot, Burk Kielber. Noble Hill. $350.

Stoneware Teapot, Burk Kielber. Noble Hill. $375.

Jar, Jim Busby. Noble Hill. NFS.

The FuuKooGama was designed, owned and operated by Ruri. It was modified/built with help from Yoshiyuki Ito, Mashiko. The main aim was to vitrify the pots without any slip or glaze or really any form of surface manipulation. FuuKooGama means "Wind and Light Kiln" (Foo means wind and Koo means light). She describes in her video interview (linked below) that often you cannot see wind or light, but can feel it: Ruri tries to express something she cannot see through clay that is transformed in her kiln. This definitely ties in to Takashi Nakazato's teaching. As well as the below pictures, all of Ruri's work on display in the Waves exhibition was anagama fired for seven days in the FuuKooGama.

There is a great video on youtube about Ruri and her work, especially discussing building and firing the FuuKooGama. This is part 1 of 2:

I particularly enjoyed how she talks about the flame in the kiln moving like a mountain stream; speeding up where pieces are closely packed and causing flashing effects.

Woodfired Vases, Kimberly Ota, FuuKooGama. NFS. (The centre and right vases).
Long-necked Vase, Nathan Paddock, FuuKooGama.

Large Bottle, Brad McLemore. FuuKooGama. $200.

Conversation II (Diptych), Ruri & Brad McLemore. FuuKooGama. $200.

Some of my favorite pots from Ashes & Flux came out of Pleasant Hill. It was started in 2000 by Tom Rohr and Kathryn Finnerty, but has since been taken over by Jesse Jones and Lauren Sommers. They have four wood kilns now. The first was built in 2001; a 60 cubic foot two-chambered wood, biodiesel, salt kiln-named 'Pepino.' Next came a 110 cubic foot anagama, named 'Tomogama,' in 2007. Then they added a wood/biodiesel soda kiln in 2014 and finally a small wood/biodiesel train kiln was built in 2014.
Pitcher, Spencer Dixon. Pleasant Hill. $250. (Fired in the train kiln).

Pitcher, Spencer Dixon. Pleasant Hill. $250.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

As you can tell, I liked these plates a lot. Amazing silky flashed surfaces. Jesse told me that the plates were unglazed and unslipped going in the kiln; made using a g-mix... a clay mixed by a local company called Georgies. They were fired in the anagama close to the floor, about 18" off the face, in a stack of four with about an inch in between each plate.

Wall Hanging Plates, Jesse Jones, Pleasant Hill, $450/set. Anagama fired.

Vase, Richard Brandt. Pleasant Hill. $450. Anagama fired.

Gongfu Cha Set, Jonathan Steele. Pleasant Hill. $200.

Cast Solo Cups, Jesse Jones. Pleasant Hill. Anagama fired.

Sipping Set, Barb Campbell. Pleasant Hill. $300. Anagama fired.

Trio of Vase, Barb Campbell. Pleasant Hill. $400. Anagama fired.

Jar with Bronze Lid, James Tingey. Pleasant Hill. $600. Anagama fired.

Lauren and her mum enjoying the exhibit. Photo credit: Brad Yazzolino

This exhibition reminded me how large wood kilns such as these can bring people together and foster learning experiences outside of formal college environs. I think it could be an interesting model to consider when I build a kiln of my own. Having additional people to help prepare all the wood, grind the kiln shelves, load, and fire must be pretty nice too!

Well I think that's all for now. Wish we had had time to go out and visit these kilns. Next time!