Monday, June 29, 2009

Rakuing for China

Phil Pollet, of Old Gap Pottery, stood amid his piles of paperwork and knick-knacks, pots and other artistic articles in his modest home near his shop right beside Pottery Highway (NC 705), and cursed loudly. He'd had about enough from his lap top.

Now, it was refusing to open up a movie about the past potters of Seagrove, produced in the mid 1980s by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. One o'clock in the afternoon and he was still organizing for a trip to China to lecture at the Jilin College of Arts in Changchun on July 8th.

Phil planned to leave at one o'clock this afternoon, spend the night in Raleigh with friends so he could get up early to drive to the airport. He was a bit tense - distracted might be a better word.

Me and my wife, Mary, were helping Phil get some pictures and movies organized on his computer. I spent the afternoon yesterday filming Phil firing his raku kiln, and this morning I put together a 2 1/2 minute film to show as part of his presentation.

Here's one of the clips I used:

I like Phil's raku kiln. He's got it rigged so you grab a control and an electrical hoist will lift the cube of iron-encased softbrick up to load and unload with tongs. He fired five pieces yesterday, altered shapes, undulating, flattened here and there, tweaked, twisted and shoved around on the wheel. He used a simple crackle glaze and brushed red iron and copper on top the glaze.

He placed the hot pieces into a bed of sawdust, sprinkling them with some extra sawdust before covering them with a galvanized tub, cooling them and then immersing them in water.

"You know, I just love these glaze effects," he said yesterday, scrubbing the black crud off a pot above a garbage can filled with water. The scrubbing revealed subtle red and green opalescent colors and black carbon trapped in the glaze.

"There's a moodiness in them - in the subtleness of them," he said, continuing to scrub. "Some people either feel it or they don't."

I did a couple of collaborative pieces with Phil earlier in the year. I enjoyed watching him work his magic on the shapes that I gave him to work on. We've still got two pieces in our shop that were fired in David Steumpfle's wood-fired kiln. One we plan to make into a lamp.

I hope Phil has a good time in China and I hope he can manage the pictures and movies on his computer during his presentation. I'll be interested in hearing how it went when he gets back.

Finished pieces from Sunday's firing


Lifting kiln to load

Pot in sawdust flaming up

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