The majority of the figures are hand built out of raku clay. The surface is buffed and covered with a terrasigilata clay slip when they are still green (unfired). They are then bisque fired in an electric kiln to stabilize the form and vitrify the clay. The final firing is in an outdoor gas kiln packed with sawdust and other junk that leaves the markings on the clay as it burns or slat fired in large indoor kilns.
LOW FIRED SALT FUMING
I have a loose brick kiln in my backyard that uses propane burners to fire. It is an experimental technique. It does create an aged look to the figures - as if they have been found somewhere and uncovered after many years. I think it gives the figures some depth of emotion that I am looking for in their faces. The kiln stays at a fairly low temperature. I add combustibles like saw dust and coffee grounds to the kiln after the figures have been loaded. The colors on the surface of the figures are caused by different elements in the kiln as they burn. This process has many names but I call it low fire salt fuming.
The sheen on the pieces is caused by a combination of a buffing process on the leather hard clay and the salt this is added during the firing process. I work harder on the buffing process on some pieces and not others.
Some of my recent work is fired in a soda kiln. The firing process has greater control and it has allowed me to add more color to the figures. I can only do this type of firing where there are facilities for soda firing. I have done several firing at Northern Clay Center and have enjoyed the camaraderie that group firings create. I continue to work primarily with clay because the firing process intrigues me. It is a bit like raising children. You can guide them and mold them as best you can, but when you send them off into the world where things are beyond your control, they can change in a way that surprises you. My work is a collaboration between me and the fire. It is like life - controlled chaos. Though it is impossible to know exactly how everything will turn out, sometimes interesting and even incredible things can happen, and that keeps me coming back to the work again and again.