You are here: Home .ceramics. .woodfired bowls.1989.
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size




Artist Statement
This is the statement that accompanied the show.

 The pieces on display represent the distillation of nearly 30 years of making and thinking about making pots.  They are the present resolution of idea, hand and material in the most basic of objects, the bowl.

For me making pots has long ceased to be simply the pursuit of technique, the mastery of tools and material, or the pursuit of decorous beauty. The questions of "what to make" and "why make it" take precedence.  A model of meaning from which to work is required, for the problem is not of deciding what to make but that of deciding how to decide.  The bowls shown here lie at the top of a meandering trail of philosophical strategies rooted in concepts of basic science {entropy} and mathematics {information theory}. They are catalyzed by idea and informed by a long developed language of hand.

Realistically, these theoretical origins are likely to be irrelevant to most observers; the "look" being of more immediate interest.  Yet, even the "look" is challenging to decipher for the casual observer uninitiated in contemporary ceramics.  As an aid, I offer the following description of some of the process involved in the making of these bowls.

The stuff from which they are made is a mixture of stoneware clay, local red clay, feldspar, and bits of brick and broken pots which I prepare myself. The glazes consist of simple combinations of feldspars, kaolin, local red clay, and wood ash.

The bowls are fired in a wood fuelled climbing kiln to a temperature of 1300 degrees Centigrade (2450 Fahrenheit).  The kiln is built on a hillside and acts somewhat like a huge (10'x10x30') serpentine chimney.  The firing routinely takes 24 hours to complete; occasionally dragging on for 30 and consumes 1 1/2 cords of thinly split softwood.  Wood must be fed to the kiln at 5 minute intervals, quickening to an almost frantic rate at the end.  Firing the kiln is an art in itself. It might be likened to an athletic event or ballet in that it requires endurance, timing, and unwavering concentration. Only the careful play of wood and air produces the desired atmosphere inside the kiln; and at the same time causes the temperature to rise.
The glaze quality of the bowls depends heavily upon subtle variations in the quantities of oxygen (air) and carbon (incompletely burnt wood) present in the kiln atmosphere during different stages of the firing. The glaze color and texture is further affected by wood ash passing through the kiln and depositing on the bowl surfaces. Most of my bowls are returned to the kiln two, three, or even five times in an attempt to achieve a sensual complex surface. New glaze or marks are often added.

 All this contributes to a subtle complex of layered color and surface unobtainable by single applications of glaze and other methods of firing.   The bowls are formed on a very slowly rotating potters wheel but extensively fingered, mauled and caressed into their final posture. I pursue a controlled eccentricity in form by exploiting irregularities in the clay mixture. Also pinches, twists, gouges, even text are introduced early in the throwing process followed by smudging and stretching until they migrate and convolve to the lip. 

 I view this as a type of additive synthesis somewhat analogous to mathematical methods {Fourier transform} exploited in contemporary computer music to generate new or complex sound.

 The bowl's foot is of special interest to me as is the lip. the foot is formed without the use of a potters wheel; being cut by hand with a knife.  This gives contrast in line while maintaining congruence in touch. Despite the rarefied conditions of display most of these bowls are intended to be handled or contemplated while held to the lips.  The bowl's undulating lip is fashion to be sympathetic as well as intriguing to the lip and tongue. The tactile tonalities of surface {skin} and shape {bones} imparted in their making are best read by touch.

Kent Benson,
January 20, 1990


Last Updated ( Monday, 13 February 2012 22:49 )