2023 is a year of great wood-firing adventures for me! Beginning in April, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Oregon at Pleasant Hill Pottery, firing one of Jesse Jones' many wood kilns. This time, my friends from home, Jeremy Noet, Heather Hitt and Eva Funderburgh came along too. Later this year I have a couple of more away wood-firings, but I'll share about that when the times come.
It's been a while since I've written a long post here. I've been up to a lot over the past couple of years. So many things. One of the biggest things has been taking on the management role of Cohorts.Art, of which I'm very proud to be a part.
Cohorts.Art is a small batch mentorship program created by my good friend, Simon Levin. The program rose from an idea sparked during the COVID pandemic, and then was launched in 2021. After a year developing the program, Simon decided to expand and take on more mentors and a manager(me) to help with the growth in 2022, and now in its third year, the program has grown again, with further plans for expansion in 2024! It's very exciting.
We have students coming together from across the globe for this opportunity to work one-on-one with an experienced mentor and build a community within their small cohort of fellow students--and the students in the other cohorts.
At our workshop in Illinois in October 2022, Simon and I were thrilled to have so many past, present and future Cohorts cross our paths during the week.
At NCECA this year we scheduled a meet-up for all past and present Cohorts and were able to lunch with at least 18 students and program mentors. Friendships developed and folks began sharing their NCECA experiences the rest of the week.
We're excited (have I mentioned excitement?) at how the program is growing, and that we're moving into other disciplines beyond clay, like writing, and hopefully painting and other creative pursuits in the future.
We also are partnering with The Color Network for our BIPOC Artist Scholarship Program.
And we have received a generous donation to fund our Cohorts.Art Lecture series.
2024 will have some new mentors added to the options, and more excitement!
Over the two days while the wood kiln cooled, Simon and I co-demonstrated our different pottery making techniques to the workshop participants. It was both a lively and relaxing week for me with music-making and shenanigans and new friends! I will go back for more.
Amy Song offers these types of workshops a couple of times a year with different visiting artists--and her kiln produces gorgeous results. If you're interested in wood-firing, I highly recommend a trip to her beautiful pottery on the banks of the Fox River in Plano, Illinois! Click here for River Song Pottery Workshops
We built it! Unfortunately, the first firing of our Coyote Kiln of Many Colors wasn't quite what we'd hoped, but as Jack Troy says, "there's a lot of good information there". (We overheard this comment from Jack at the Northwest Wood Fire Conference, and it really stuck with us.)
Our wood kiln obviously needs a few tweaks, but we had fun and learned a lot and can see from the ash distribution that our kiln will perform beautifully when we can actually get it to desired temperature! Here are a few of pictures from the construction and first firing.
We will be raising the shed roof (again), making our chimney taller, rebuilding our "Chunnel" (horizontal chimney tunnel), increasing the size of our flue, and insulating the front and back walls with fiber and cement board. Then we'll be golden! Stay tuned....
Living the Dream
In January of this year, almost a year into the lonely pandemic, 3 masked friends and I gathered around a bonfire and made a plan to give us a little light of hope and excitement during a difficult time: to build ourselves a small wood kiln. Shortly thereafter, things started to happen. In the spring, we dug a hole and poured a concrete slab. Then a friend offered me bricks! Once we were all fully vaccinated, our cohort took an exciting ferry ride in a large rental truck to fetch them. In the summer, we built a roof. And now it’s fall, and we’re stacking bricks into the shape of a kiln which we hope to finish and fire this winter.
If you know me at all, you know I’ve been firmly hooked on wood-firing since my first experience almost 9 years ago. So this is a big, dream-fulfilling deal to me. I’m going to compile photos and document the process here. There are already some funny stories that deserve sharing. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the Coyote Kiln Project.
In March, I went to the annual NCECA (National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts) convention in Minneapolis. Land of the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Warren McKenzie. I found inspiration traveling by bus through the Upper St Croix River Valley, visiting the studios of Matthew Krousey, Will Swanson, Janel Jacobson, and Linda Christianson(one of the invited artists in our upcoming Good Earth Pottery pitcher show). The numerous gallery exhibitions offered drool-worthy and jaw-dropping examples of what ceramics has to offer, I even had the great pleasure of seeing my own work in an NCECA sponsored exhibition, "You've Been Served" organized by Clay Arts Vegas and the University of North Dakota ceramics department. The vast array of studio tools in the expo hall is overwhelming and covet-worthy. All in all, it's a highly stimulating and overwhelming experience, brought to its apex by the community of people that readily embraces each other. I feel fortunate to have found myself in this tribe of clay people who understand the struggles and triumphs and why we keep repeating the madness that is ceramics. This, my 5th NCECA, did not disappoint when it came to the people. It strengthened existing friendships and built new ones, and was just what this working potter/gallery owner needed to energize herself for the coming year, both in the studio and the gallery--and life in general!
See you next year in Richmond, Virginia!
So many things happened last year, and the final couple of months flew by so quickly I didn't have a chance to post about some until now.
In October I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Montana. (I know, I know, it's not that far away, but still, it never happened 'til now.) I traveled with some of the best traveling companions I could hope for. Friends who are fun--and patient and helpful when the car breaks down.
We drove to Helena for the Cultural Confluence Woodfire Symposium, a coming together of wood-firing enthusiasts from all over the world. It began with artist demonstrations at the Archie Bray Foundation(mecca for potters), then on to informative and inspiring lectures, all making me wish I had my own wood-kiln, of course. Highlights of the weekend included having some wonderful conversations with Linda Christianson and George McCauley--you'll even catch me in an episode of George's House of Clay!
Then the holiday season blew right on by, and suddenly January 1st arrived, where I took the reins of Good Earth Pottery firmly in both hands, as my business partner, Deb Martin, retired. Now here I am, making plans for the future, and celebrating the past! Good Earth Pottery turns 50 this year (that's right--50 years old). So I feel the need to honor the legacy, while at the same time helping it continue to evolve. I decided to start by hosting our first international (US & Canada) call for entries "Pitcher Perfect", juried by the one and only, Deb Schwartzkopf (Ceramic Monthly's 2019 Artist of the Year). I'm excited to share that I also have invited three renowned artists to include their pitchers in the show, Linda Christianson, Adam Field & Simon Levin.
So it's going to be an exciting year, while I work on achieving balance in all aspects of life: studio, gallery, teaching, family. Stay tuned for developments!
I'm pretty ecstatic to share that two photos of my work (with captions written by yours truly) are included in the new, revised edition of "The Encyclopedia of Pottery Techniques" by Peter Cosentino. I feel very honored to have been included--especially after seeing some of the other artists pictured within.
It wasn't all deep thoughts and deeper conversation (although there was plenty of that), we ate well, we laughed, we danced, we fortified friendships, we learned. Every wood-firing teaches me something new about the process, and about myself. (Who knew I'd love to wield a machete?)
I'll add more pictures of my work from Simon Levin's Thunder Train kiln to my wood-firing portfolio page soon.
Ann Marie Cooper
Consumed by a love of clay.