Wood Fired Ceramic Exhibition – Opening on 12 November 2019 at 19h00
“Connected by Fire” is an exhibition exploring the ancient process of wood-firing and will feature work from various wood-firing kilns at McGregor, Noordhoek and White River.
Hennie Meyer, curator of the exhibition, is extremely excited about firing the anagama wood-fire kiln at Millstone Pottery in McGregor. “There are not a lot of these kilns in the country and firing one is a wonderful opportunity to be celebrated.” The exhibition will focus on the anagama firing and will aim to help viewers to understand and appreciate this unpredictable process.
Owner of the kiln, Paul de Jongh, says that when he built it in the early 1990s, he always hoped that it would one day become a meeting place for potters to come and fire together.
Firing an anagama kiln involves a complex interaction between flame, ash and the minerals in the clay which form a unique natural glaze altering colours and textures resulting in a more natural, primitive surface. Each piece conveys a narrative of how it connected with the flame and wood ash.
All participating ceramic artists are studio potters and educators who have come to wood firing at different points in their lives, but all have been captivated by this serendipitous process.
The firing requires constant collaborative monitoring and continues over a period of five days, including a two-day pre-heat to reach the ideal temperature of around 1300º C. About 5 tons of wood is used to complete the firing. An additional three days is needed to load the kiln with the roughly 600 clay pieces in the over 120 cubic feet of kiln space. Once the firing is completed, a five-day cooling period is required before works can be unloaded. This year, the unloading coincides with the last day of the annual wood-firing jamboree at Millstone Pottery in McGregor.
Working with the anagama is “like having a conversation with fire,” says Paul. “Each kiln has a completely different personality, but work that comes out of a wood-firing kiln is incredibly beautiful. You can’t compare it with anything else,” he says. Everything from the weather outside to the quality of wood to the placement and positioning of pieces within the belly of the apparatus, affects how the works turn out.
“This is our collaboration with fire, smoke, ash, clay and heat,”
Works include sculpture, stoneware jars, platters and pitchers and abstract pieces. The objects make clear that artists who embrace the anagama also accept the Japanese concept of ‘wabi-sabi’, or the notion that beauty can be imperfect.
These artists are: Paul de Jongh, Nina Shand, Howard Minne, Alila Hofmeyr, Hennie Meyer, Wilma Cruise, Katja Abbot, Catherina Pagani, Maria Ziessler and Gavin Grieve. Participants at Millstone Pottery’s annual wood-firing jamboree have also been invited to submit work for inclusion in ‘The Cube’ at the Clay Museum.
The show runs from November 12 to 13 December 2019.