Saturday, August 20, 2011

Local potters inspire

Jayme Allen of Firebug Pottery writes: "As a potter, I’ve spent many hours looking at tea wares, mainly from China and Japan, researching their history, function, philosophy, use, and the processes that brought them into being. During all this, I tried to uncover what made these wares so much different than the ones being currently produced by most potters in the world, and I truly believe that it starts with materials. Modern pottery is often made from clays bought from a store, in a plastic bag, and are overly processed, and the glazes are not much better, also made of overly refined and processed materials that are produced by industry for industrial use. In contrast, these Chinese and Japanese wares that I was admiring were created from clay that was local to the area, glazed with other local materials, usually including wood ash, feldspars, quartz, and limestone, all of which were mined, processed, used, and fired in the same area. It was this rich sourcing, coupled with the overall spirit of Eugene, which is strongly inclined to using local and re-sourced materials, which influenced me to start my pots by collecting my materials locally, and then processing those by hand myself, and developing both clay and glaze in the way of the old craftsman. It was shortly after arriving at this decision, and having started using local materials with some success, that they started the excavation of the new basketball arena at the university. Being a student there, I kept an eye on the progress of the excavation, which slowly cut its way through a thick layer of brown sandy clay, then a smaller layer of smooth red clay deep in the ground. I was eventually able to secure myself several hundred pounds of each layer, and after working with each, discovered that the red clay from the deepest layer made a fine clay with the addition of silica (quartz), and the brown clay a fine black glaze with the addition of silica and wood ash that I collected from forest thinning burns, ultimately rejoining the two geologic layers as I had found them, but now in the form of a tea bowl. The clay, being similar in appearance to both Yixing, China, and Tokoname, Japan clay bodies, influenced me to make naked clay teapots, which not only demonstrate the beauty of the local clay, but also carries the same physical properties that make the Yixing and Tokoname teapots so special- High iron content, and slight permeability. I really enjoy the concept of working with both ancient tradition, and the current ideology of environmental awareness, to create tea wares that truly reflect our local area."
Find Jayme's work at J-TEA or contact him directly at his online studio.