Over the past 32 years, there has been a total of 23 members in the Fired Up! group. From May 27-29, ten core Fired Up! members and four guests will gather in the Metchosin Community Hall for their much-anticipated annual Fired Up! 2016 Ceramics Exhibition. Ceramic enthusiasts and collectors will be thrilled to experience this group’s exhilarating and innovative work together under one roof.
An annual tradition to select a theme for the exhibit, the group chose “wood firing” to mark this year’s distinctive show. Informed by the ceramics anthology, The Art of Earth, compiled by Rona Murray and Walter Dexter, the group will be creating a wood-fired piece in honour of their friend and former Fired Up! member, Walter Dexter, who passed in 2015.
One month prior to the exhibition, these core participants will visit Gordon Hutchens’ studio on Denman Island to fire their work in one of the world’s only Tozan Anagama (cave) kilns. First developed in Korea in the 5th Century, this wood-fired kiln moved to China and Japan and was one of very few in the world when it was built at Hutchens’ studio in 1998.
Built into a slope in the ground, a continuous supply of firewood is required to fuel the fire around the clock until the desired temperature is reached. A complex interaction between flame, ash, and the minerals in the clay forms a unique natural ash glaze altering colours and textures to create distinctive works of art.
Hutchens’ visit to Japan at 14-years-old marked the birth of his interest in pottery and the allure of the anagama kiln. Holding on to the idea of building his own kiln for many years, Hutchens chose his Denman Island property based on its ideal landscape to build a traditional wood-fired kiln. While involved in building two renowned Tozan Anagama kilns at Malaspina University-College in Nanaimo, he had the honour of meeting Yukio Yamamoto, the “world master” of anagama and noborigama kilns. Under the guidance of Dr. Yamamoto, Hutchens designed and built his own kiln, the fourth of its kind in the world, between August 1996 and April 1998.
Hutchens fires his kiln biannually and this year marks his second session with Fired Up!. “Its a team effort and lots of fun,” he says. About 12 feet deep and 4-5 feet wide, the kiln has over 250 cubic feet of space. Hutchens describes loading the kiln as a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. Lined with shelves, the kiln’s flames move across the vessels towards the rear of the kiln. “I try to imagine the river of fire,” he says “the way it weaves around the rock-like pots, caressing each clay vessel in its path.”
Using up to five cords of wood to achieve firing temperature, the result is a more natural, primitive surface with each piece conveying a narrative of how it connected with the flame and wood ash. The ash forms its own blushes and unique flashes of colour as it progressively settles on the pieces. When Hutchens greets guests at the Fired Up! exhibit in Metchosin, “one thing is for certain,” he says “they will see the best work of the past year.”
A member of Fired Up! since 1984, Meira Mathison’s ceramics radiate vitality and gestural energy. After throwing a pot, she often manipulates the form, adding liquid slips and several layers of glazes which should result in rich textural pieces as a result of the wood-firing. For the April firing on Denman Island, Mathison plans to use forms that encourage the collection of ash on their surfaces. She hopes for “luscious surfaces with depth and brilliance.”
Potting since the early 1970’s, Mary Fox continues to push the boundaries of creativity to produce inspiring forms and trademark glazes. Often described as elegant vessels that resemble unearthed antiquities, Fox’s work fired in an anagama kiln is sure to deepen her already textured pieces. A long history with Fired Up!, Fox enjoys sharing her knowledge of the art form and looks forward to chatting with emerging potters at Fired Up! 2016. Guests at the show will be the first to see her signature successes from the wood-firing on Denman Island.
Sculpting clay into textural forms where architecture intersects with landscape and organic meets urban, Samantha Dickie‘s abstract sculptures are informed by the rich history of ceramics, from the ancient remnants of utilitarian objects to the contemporary use of sculptural abstraction and innovative installation. Exploring the dynamic relationship between organic, earthly beauty and the remnants of decay, it will be exciting to experience the textural results of Dickie’s work in the anagama kiln. Marking her twentieth year of working with clay, Dickie is always open to a dialogue about ceramics and her process.