My passion for making pottery began when I enrolled in a high school ceramic class. I attended San Diego State University and received my BA in Art with an emphasis in ceramics. In 2011, I traveled to Kasama, Japan to study ceramics. My time spent in studying Japanese pottery had a huge influence on my work. The Japanese aesthetic of Wabi-sabi, or “beauty that is imperfect, impermanent or incomplete”, has since informed my work. My primary interests are exploring the dynamic relationships between form, texture, and surface. My forms are created on the potter’s wheel and often altered and carved. I fire my pottery in atmospheric kilns to add visual depth and asymmetry to my work. My goal is to create a profound tactile and visual experience that stimulates the senses during daily rituals of eating and drinking.
Prospecting Clay and Glazes From Natural Sources
I always imagined I would have to go through great lengths to find and dig my own clay, but that perception was demystified on a trip up to Oregon to visit family. Oregon's coastline is chalk full of clay. Indeed everywhere I turned there was a seam of clay begging to be dug. The Picture on the left I am testing clay for its plasticity and checking to see how much impurities and organic matter are present in the clay. On the right, there are two samples of the clay fired to cone 6 in oxidation. The sample on the left was not screened and the sample on the right was screened to remove excess rock and organic matter from the clay. The sample on the right was very smooth and exceptionally plastic. It is very glassy at cone 6.
Processing natural materials for use as glazes was another endevour I wanted to explore. On another trip up to Oregon, my family and I stayed at my grandfather's cabin on the Rouge River just east of Gold Beach. There on the banks was a beautiful grey/black sand bank full of fine grain rock. I grabbed a couple scoops and took it back to the studio to process it into a usable glaze. I ran it a few hours in the ball mill to grind the sand down into a slushy liquid and added 10% ball clay to aid the glaze's suspension and to give it tackiness so it will apply better to bisque ware. The resulting glaze can be seen on the yunomi to the right, which was fired in an anagama wood kiln for 96 hours and cone 14 was down in parts of the kiln, that is about 2,500!
I recently took a trip up to Chico CA with a good friend and ceramic artist who had just been accepted into Chico State's MFA program. We hiked up to a well known park in the hills that had a small creek winding its way through massive facades of basalt. This rock is black to grey and is cooled magma from Earth's earlier days. I grabbed a small bag full of golf ball sized pieces of basalt, and took them back to the studio to try out using a dusty old piece of equipment I found hiding in the back of the ceramic lab. The BlueBird rock crusher is an amazing tool that makes one heck of a ruckus. It ground down the golf ball size pieces of basalt into 60-80 mesh bits that were then ground down further with the ball mill. The resulting basalt glaze is a natural highly glossy cone 10 glaze.
New Soda Kiln
I was very fortunate to acquire a used kiln and new k-28 soft bricks at a very reasonable price from a professor and good friend of mine. I Demolished the old kiln that was primarily k-23 soft bricks and refurbished the metal framework which was rusting.
I started bricking the kiln with the k-28 soft bricks to its original updraft design. It terms of design, an updraft soda kiln sounds counter-intuitive, yet during my time at SJSU I fired a very large updraft soda kiln which yielded some of the best effects I've seen.
The up-draft design is simple and compact and the kiln's size (approx. 14.5 cu ft) was perfect for my modest production output. The kiln runs on four model 750 Venturi burners with natural gas. There are four soda ports in the kiln, two in the door and two in the back of the kiln. The soda ash is dissolved in water and introduced into the kiln with a garden sprayer. The arch is the only part of the kiln that was constructed of hard brick to better resist slagging. The rest of the kiln is made of K-28 soft bricks which make the kiln heat up and cool off quicker than a full hard brick kiln saving money on gas. In fact, I calculated the cost of firing the kiln the first time to be just $40! Another benefit of using soft bricks was that they can be easily cut with a hand saw and don't require the use of a wet saw which can save time and money during construction.
Old kiln under demolition
Here's the inside of the kiln after its first firing. The kiln accommodates two 12"x24" shelves. The kiln developed minor stress cracks on the back left wall. The walls got a nice light coating of soda ash and the accumulation of soda ash was heavier on the bottom than the top.
The finished kiln before it's first firing. Notice that the mortar I used (Sariset and Smoothset) both had soda-ash or some soluble material that colored the bricks.
Picture of the kiln firing at night. The low pressure of the natural gas is quieter than the high pressure jet engine sound of propane (and it's cheaper!).
Here's a look at the outside of the kiln with the door shut. The two soda ports and peep holes are visible.