I use low fire earthenware white and terra cotta clays with commercial underglazes and glazes applied separately. The firing takes place in the controlled environment of an electric kiln. My modeling technique is primarily handbuilding. I use slabs and coils in slump molds, and I improvise tools to help me simulate the look I am trying to achieve. Some of the parts are thrown on the potter’s wheel. Some of the pieces have rods, metal screws, and glue for stability. It's a lengthy process to conceive a piece and figure out how to execute it. I fire in the range of 1850 degrees, Cones 04-06.
Buffalos & Saggar Technique
I hand form each buffalo with low fire white clay. When they have dried, I brush on three coats of a fine clay slip called terra sigilatta. The buffaloes are carefully packed inside a clay box (a saggar) along with a variety of organic materials such as sawdust and salt marsh hay, which have been saturated with various metal oxides. During the five hour firing, the fuming of the oxides combines with the smoke from the burning combustibles to create a range of colors and effects. There is no glaze, but the color is permanent. Every piece is one of a kind. For a final touch, I hand polish with protective wax.
I make buffalos as a way to honor my mother. The buffalo serves as a symbol for my attachment to a courageous woman who taught me about possibilities across the horizon.
I use both the potters wheel and handbuilding for my functional stoneware work. Utilitarian pieces are fired in a reduction kiln to a high fired cone 10 (2300 degrees Farenheit). It takes several hours to load/unload a kiln, 12 hours for firing, and 24 hours for cooling before opening the door to see results. The ware is durable in the oven and microwave. Glazes are leadfree.
The raku vessels are made from high fired stoneware but are fired with glaze to a much lower temperatiure. They are fragile and not watertight but can serve as vases with a coaster or protective pad underneath. They are meant for decorative use, not for cooking or eating.
For me, the appeal of raku firing is its unpredictability. I try to keep a balance between control and serendipity. To pull a glowing red pot out of a kiln feels like participation at a birth.
History of Raku
Raku originated in Japan centuries ago as a firing method for the teabowls made for nobility. American raku is the process of removing ware from a hot kiln and cooling it rapidly in containers of combustible materials, like newspaper and sawdust. The burning process that occurs in this post-reduction state creates a range of colors, from bright metallics to subtle smoky shades to crackle patterns. Unglazed areas on the clay absorb the smoke, creating tones of grey and black.