When I was twelve years old my parents started an art gallery in Great Falls, MT. Our family would go to Bigfork MT. on the weekends visiting several well-known artists on each trip to supply the gallery with high end art.
I was so envious of the artists talent. I wanted to be an artist. My problem was the only thing I could draw was a chicken. When I walked into my seventh-grade art class and saw the potter’s wheels sitting there I knew that would be my art venture. I sold all my belongings or whatever a thirteen-year-old has and purchased my first potter’s wheel. I knew Ray Steele who was the curator of the C.M. Russel museum in Great Falls who was a potter as well. He took me under his wing letting me use his kiln for firing my work. School during the day throwing pots at knight and selling my pots at my parent’s art gallery.
I am a self-taught potter never having any classes, just the general idea of how the process worked. I started the Raku firing process in 1973 and have stuck with it since then. The Raku glaze firing process was developed in Japan in the fifteenth century. All of the glazes I use are glazes I have created with different earth elements that will melt at 1850 degrees and turn to glass creating the beautiful blues and coppers.
Raku firing is a very dramatic process. After throwing and trimming a pot it needs to dry for a couple weeks and then fired for the first time called bisque fired. Next, I apply the glaze by dipping, spraying, or brushing. Next the pots are fired again to 1850 degrees. Pulled from the kiln white hot with a set of tongs and set in a pit lined with shredded paper. The paper starts on fire. The pot is then covered with a can smothering the fire. This is called reduction. The clay body and the glaze are starving for oxygen, but the only atmosphere is smoke. The clay body and glaze absorb the carbon from the smoke creating and enhancing the glaze outcome. I never know what the glaze outcome will be until I scrub the smoke, soot and ash. Because of the Raku process every piece is different from the next. No two are the same.