Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Saturday April 13th 2013

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gary
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Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by gary » Thu Apr 18, 2013 2:43 am

I usually post with the San Francisco group, but this time insdead I went to Mendocino for what may be the last firing of the anagama, or wood-fire kiln, at its current location at Flynn Creek Pottery.
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This ancient type of kiln design was brought to Japan from China via Korea in the 5th century. The firing here takes from seven to ten days (with an additional week to cool down), consumes four to six cords of firewood, and eventually reaches temperatures of about 2400 degrees, which causes the wood ash to vitrify and bond with the clay in a natural glaze, characterized by great variation in color, texture, and thickness, ranging from smooth and glossy to rough and sometimes crusty effects. Very wabi-sabi.
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Shifts work around the clock, stoking the fire with wood from the two stacks of firewood, three ranks deep, which flank the kiln on either side. There gets to be something of a party atmosphere with plenty of food and drink. Here is the early Saturday morning shift, Ashwini, a potter from India, and Nicole, somewhat more local, dressed against the cold and sitting with their feet in the pit by the main door at the front end of the kiln. The mural, painted on paper stuck to the front end by Jess, Nick's wife, is already starting to crumble from the rising heat and will be gone within hours. Later in the day, I help plaster the cracks between the bricks with new mud. Note the tiny kiln-god figures, made by the various potters involved, sitting atop the kiln. Also up there is an offering of a cup of sake.
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The kilnmaster himself, Nick Schwartz, sits in a chair in front of the anagama with his baby boy, Archer, and plays ambient blues on a slide guitar. I spent the night in that hammock. Nick refuses to use a pyrometer to check the temperature of the kiln, and notes instead the color of the fire and the feel and sound of the works to tell him whats going on inside and when to stoke and how to control the temperature.
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The clock on the shelf on the wall facing the kiln in this open air shed helps keep track of the shifts. Phone numbers here and the shift schedule (off, to the left) are written on cardboard, nailed to the wall.
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Mendo the very serious dog, ceramic sculptures by artist Tai Rogers on the hill behind the shed, and another view of the anagama, showing the side and rear stoking doors, the pizza oven which is nested between the kiln and the flue and heated by the kiln itself, the woodpile, and the large, seemingly floating riverstones suspended over the kiln which serve as counterweights for the various doors, strung by cables.
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On the hill by the woodpile is a mocking sculpture of a "kiln bomb," referring to pieces that sometimes accidentally explode in kilns due to air bubbles. Also, on the hill, just behind the kiln, nestled among roots and grass is a collection of anagama fired pieces arranged in a still-life. Hannah, in a Department of Forestry jacket pauses while on shift. Late night visitor Lupe brings homemade beer, smokes an e-cigarette, and tells of his grandmother's trick with a quarter to tell good mushrooms from bad. A cute little hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) makes itself at home, hanging from a red Tibetan prayer flag in the smoky warmth.
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I leave a colored sketch in the handbound logbook, the cover of which is sewn from old leather kiln gloves. Good luck and happy firing to all at Flynn Creek Pottery. May your pieces come out beautifully!
Gary
Last edited by gary on Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:50 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by jdryden » Thu Apr 18, 2013 3:40 am

Lovely work, Gary! I really like how you're composing the sketches, as always. Hope to see you at the next Crawl.

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by Sophie Valenti » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:15 am

amazing pages, thank you for sharing :clap: :thumbup:

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by kumi matsukawa » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:55 am

:wave: Wonderful report and beautiful sketches as usual! :thumbup:

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by trevoredavies » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:59 am

Interesting story and very good sketches,Many thanks love it.
From down under in New Zealand. :thumbup:

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by Capetownsketchers » Sat Apr 20, 2013 11:34 am

This is such an interesting posting, with the fascinating story and beautiful sketches. I'd love to know how that quarter is used to tell good mushrooms from bad, and if the trick would work in Africa! We're inspired by all the postings, and this one gets my vote for one of the very best! Best wishes from Cape Town https://www.facebook.com/CapeTownSketchers?ref=hl

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by gaelwriter » Sat Apr 20, 2013 5:39 pm

Nice work, Gary. Terrific collection of sketches covering a fascinating ceramic arts project. You've captured the almost myth-like qualities of the equipment, processes, and people engaged in this art.

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by gary » Sat Apr 20, 2013 8:52 pm

Thanks everyone! Capetown, the story is that Lupe's grandmother would put mushrooms in a pot of water and drop in a quarter. If the quarter turned black, the mushroom was poisonous. This bit of "folk wisdom" only works (to the extent that it works at all) with silver coins, as the black tarnish is silver sulfide and indicates the presence of sulfur. However, there are many ways that a mushroom may be poisonous and, for the record, Gary says don't try this at home. But the point of Lupe's story was that, in any case, his poor grandmother was apparently unaware that US quarters stopped being made with silver in 1964, and continued to try the trick anyway in what could be considered a very lucky unintentional gambling streak, at least until her family started taking the mushrooms away.

There were a few mushrooms growing on the property of the ceramics studio, around the forge - edible morels, apparently, though we did not eat them, nor did we test them with any coins.

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Re: Mendocino CA USA (Results)

Post by Susan T » Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:48 am

Really nice sketches and the story telling was the icing on the cake!


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