The last time I spoke with you I described the process of waiting that takes place for wood-firing potters: months of making and preparation; cords and cords of wood gathered, split and seasoned; days of loading the kiln; a week or more of 24/7 firing; and then the WAITING….
During that waiting period I often find myself second-guessing my decision-making: was that clay body appropriate for the location that I selected in the kiln?; should the pot-sitters on those wall vases have been wider so that they won’t have fallen over during the stresses of firing?; was the side-stoking too rambunctious? — were those noises that I heard coming from pots that fell over?; were those side-fired pots in the best location?
Did I include the “right” clay bodies for the species of wood that I selected for the firing?; did I fire hot enough…too hot?; did I soak the kiln at top temperature long enough?; was the cooling slow enough to allow for crystal growth and the lovely complexity that comes from it?
And I find myself wondering: how will this firing surprise me?; what kinds of results will I see that I never could have imagined?
What were some of my “inspired” decisions in loading that will only become evident when we unload?; how will my visual literacy be expanded by this process which — on every level — is a collaborative event: not only am I collaborating with other peiople to pull of this huge physical and emotional undertaking, but I collaborate with the weather over the course of the roughly 60 years that affected the growth and chemical content of the bark and cambium layer of trees that I’m using for fuel, I colaborate with combustion chemistry of which I know pitifully little, I collaborate with the variations in clay chemistry, with barometric pressure, with wind and rain, with the magical unpredicability and capriciousness of a process of which one does not fully control.
And so……we waited. And then we finally unloaded. As some say….it is Christmas!! And yes it is…..but too, it is sometimes……well….Halloween. And then there are those Halloween pieces that reveal themselves as better than Christmas after I have had a period of time to take them in, to shake off my imposed expectations, to allow my understanding of beauty to be shaken-up and expanded….enriched (“don’t toss that piece in the dumpster just yet…..sit with it a while and come to know it”).
And there are the pieces that surpass, by so far, my expectations that I just wilt in awe at their beauty!
I am not only a maker…..I am a receiver….these works aren’t entirely mine….yet they are mine alone: the wonderful and endearing paradox that these works are not just for me…but they are also wholly mine.
This is a process that grows over time, for those of us in wood-firing. And the learning that is gained from wood-firing expands to much of the rest of life. I’m reminded of the words of Mr. Matsuyama — the teacher of one of my teachers: “Aging and gaining experience makes you more sensitive to nature and beauty. The older we get….the more we ‘grow up’…the more we are able to see real beauty — in nature…….. and in others.”
May we all continue to find this beauty!
Copyright November 28, 2011
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