Monday, August 22, 2016

Dave Berfield, Ceramist: #2

In the initial edition of this blog post we described the “Building Phase”
of the Flower Vases for the wedding of Dave’s daughter Sachi. 
 As Dave describes it, both the fun and the challenge of the
Building Phase is the opportunity to dream up a design for a vessel,
then try it out, and modify it as needed to ensure that both the
form and functional objectives are met.  At the end of the Building Phase,
Dave had designed the vases, built them, and completed initial bisque firing.
The vases were now ready for a longer firing in Dave’s wood-fired kiln.

In actual fact, Dave notes that there is not a clean break between the two phases,

but an overlap, as he fires a few design vessels in full wood-firings,
and modifies the design as necessary.  He fired two vases in a first wood-firing,
and five or more in a second.  Dave perfected the design during the
winter and early spring.  After modifications and further testing,
he had the vase design that he wanted for final firings.


In twelve years of observing potters engaged in wood-firing of ceramics,
we have never run across a wood-firing potter who does not love it.
Dave says he enjoys the firing process because of the physical activity
and the challenge of the firing itself.  Here the challenges include
the physical risks to the ceramics at 2,400+ degrees for extended
periods, wood that doesn’t always burn the same, and weather
that can affect the results.

Or, perhaps, the Kiln God may simply frown on you that day. 

The kiln sits in one corner of a lovely pasture.  When we visited,
the activity was under the eye of two watchful sheep.

They keep the pasture closely mowed and fertilized.  They are
very attentive to what the potters are doing and don’t appear to mind
a couple of extra observers.
Dave and fellow Bainbridge Island potter, Joe O’Brien,
constructed the kiln in 2012.   


 Joe has an MA in teaching and a MFA in ceramics and for many
years operated a commercial ceramic firm and participated in the design
and creation of ceramic and enamel murals for the City of New York
and for the Orlando Municipal Airport.  His current firings are
focused on glazes and his “experiments” produce beautiful hues,
helping to expand the wood-fired color palette.

The kiln is typically fired about twelve times each year.
Wild fire concerns limit summer firing.  So, it is fired about twice
a month during safe periods.  Firing activities can be pretty intense
and entail: preparing the kiln, loading it with the pottery to be fired,
building the fire and raising it to the proper temperature,
maintaining the temperature over time and finally unloading
the final product and making final touch-ups.

The kiln is a cross-draft design with firebox on one side and
exhaust on the other.  It is loaded from the top and has several shelves.

Like life, position in the kiln is often destiny.  Temperatures vary
within the kiln.  Some of the pieces will be closer to the flame
than others, or may be affected by different air flows depending
on the positioning of the ceramics.  All this has an impact.
Knowing this, potters attempt to take advantage of positioning
to enhance the desired results.  Loading takes time and thought.

Not only does inside positioning affect the result, but so do
outside conditions (temperature and humidity) and type and
condition of the wood being used.  Thus, different firings,
conducted in the same manner, can provide different results.
As in all art, the element of chance can play
an important part in the result.

Finally loading is completed, the kiln is closed and the fire is started.

Now the fun begins!

There is a reason you don’t see many “plump” wood-firing potters.
These potters will easily max out their Fitbit during a firing.

After they have the kiln going they must feed it for many hours.
This demands the use of the wood the potter has previously cut,
split and stockpiled, and possibly more.  The requirement is to
reach the desired temperature and maintain it. The routine
becomes very focused: check the temperature, feed the fire. 
 Observers, including sheep, tried to stay out of the way. 

On the day we were observing the firing, the kiln was being
a bit cantankerous.  It was having difficulty achieving
and holding the desired temperature.

Dave and Joe were adding wood, removing some bricks to
acquire more air for combustion, and finally,
speaking nicely to the Kiln God.

After a good deal of toil, the combination of activities
was successful.  Peering into the flames, the potters
confirmed that they had achieved and maintained Cone 11
(a temperature in excess of 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit)
for the required time.

Now it was time to reverse the process and start cooling it down.
The shadows were lengthening as Dave climbed up and reduced
the air to the fire.  It had been a long day. 

The following day’s activities started late in order for the kiln
and its contents to cool down sufficiently to handle.   Dave and
Joe removed the bricks and insulation covering the top of the
kiln and had their first glimpse of the firing results.  Despite the
difficulty with the kiln’s temperature regulation,
the firing had been very successful.

The four flower vases and the bird bath shown in this picture
were outstanding, as were the remainder of the contents.

 As the unloading continued, the smiles got bigger.

It was a great firing. 

When the kiln was unloaded the vases were taken to
 Dave’s studio for inspection. It confirmed the positive
assessment of the firing.  But their work wasn’t yet complete.
Another set of bisque-fired vases were sitting ready to
be a part of the next firing.

However, it was clear that the effort was coming
to a successful closure.

Next Time

We will highlight the vases at the wedding. Stay tuned. 

More Information

Wood-fired ceramics are an important part of The Island Gallery’s art portfolio.
If you want a bit more information on the history
and art of wood-fired ceramics we recommend the short essay 
Faith and Fortuitous Beauty: Thoughts on wood fired pottery by the
Gallery’s own Susan Roth. 


Saturday, August 6, 2016

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: First Friday Artwalk, August 5, 2016


More like "Art-Dance..."

What a show it was:  The weather was fabulous, the band was rockin', the town turned out, and sales were amazing.

Not only that but everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time, including our artists:

Andrea Lawson and Renee Jameson, two of our exceptionally talented artists.
Andrea works primarily in acrylics; Renee does amazing monotypes.
(You can click on the links in their names to see their work!)
Andrea, with her BrainsBeauty paintings.
(More information on this piece coming to the online Shop.)

Lisa Wederquist, just below several pieces of
her stunning new ceramic work.
(By the way, Lisa's latest will be featured in our
upcoming Ceramics Monthly ad.  Exciting!)

Karen Chaussabel, standing with her wonderful encaustic/mixed
media work, a little different from her past work,
as these are landscapes.  Very nice!
Here's a link to one of her latest pieces, Morning Sea Ripple.
(Oh, and we hope to have one of her amazing recipes
in the next Gallery Picks Newsletter - can't get enough of those!)
Ranger and the Re-Arrangers bring swing back
to Winslow Way!

Here's a close-up of Ranger and Jeffrey, hard at work.
As always, guys, it was a blast!

(If you can't live without a regular dose of their
toe-tapping, made-for-dancing, gypsy jazz tunes, we always
have several of their CDs available for sale.
Simply contact the Gallery for information.)

On to September and the next great First Friday Artwalk.  We will, as always, bring you all the advance details, and hope to see you back here for our upcoming Gallery Picks Newsletter.

(Don't forget:  You can sign up to have advance notice messages delivered to your inbox, for newsletters, show, sales and concert info, by sending a note to *ssn [at] theislandgallery [dot] net.  Just put "Subscribe me" in the title box and we'll sign you up right away.) 

*(Also:  Sorry to write it that way, but we have to in order to foil the many, many spammers.)

~S. Roth

Thursday, August 4, 2016

QUICK PICKS: Summer Delights - Textiles, Wearable Art

Summer!  And what to wear?

No problem; scroll down and we're sure you'll see something cool and stylish, something impossible to live without!

We're calling this post a Quick Picks because, unlike the in-depth commentary in our monthly Gallery Picks Newsletters, these will be primarily visual festivals, photo-heavy and text-light, intended to offer a tantalizing glimpse of the Gallery's latest arrivals.

Wearable Art is today's feature, specifically the designs of three textile artists, all of whom work in three great Asian textile traditions:  Batik, Shibori and Vintage Kimono textiles (which include embroidery and shibori).  All three artists utilize these traditions tested over the ages, but they are also influenced by contemporary designs and the artists' connections to the United States.  For example, the artist behind David.Bali was the Head of Artists Trust in Seattle, working with Balinese textile artisans; Mary Jaeger studied shibori for years in Japan, and is now creating her beautiful textiles in New York City; and Chiho Kuwayama (of Chiho Couture) creates modern couture inspired by her cultural traditions for the Japanese and international fashion market.

We've included the work of several jewelry artists as well, so don't wait a second longer - scroll on down!

(And as always, click on the links to go to the Gallery's online Shop for further details.)



David's Serape
(A best seller, and we only have one!)
And ... oops... it is already

Hippari (Kimono Jackets)

T Canda, Baju Canda, Kurta


Selandang (shawls, wall art)
Hand-drawn Batik
Shown in a long drape, Left to Right:
Indigo and White Stripes design
Black and White Geometric design
Selendang Bangladesh: Indigo and Gold Tumpal design

Shown flung across the shoulders, with flair!
(Center:  With Cihak terracotta ceramic necklace)

They can also be used decoratively; as a wall hanging, for example.

T Canda, Selendang
Another way to wear the selendang, at the hips like a sarong,
paired with a lovely top that is color-coordinating.

A quick peek at a recent trunk show:

The textiles are fabulous, as always, and we also
are very fond of the big wooden Buddha head!


Florence Shirtdress Jacket
Three views of Mary's fabulous Florence Shirtdress jacket,
indigo/white shibori, entirely hand-done.
The detail work is stunning.  In a nutshell, though, Mary's
textiles are so wonderful, they need to be touched
to be well and truly appreciated.

Tiger Scarf
A gorgeous  scarf named Tiger and some of the many ways to wear it.
(Can also be used as wall art.)

More of Mary's items will be coming to the shop soon.


Skinny and Infinity Scarves
From Chiho Couture's collection of Vintage Kimono fabric
come these gorgeous long scarves, Left to Right:
In the same order as above:  a close-up look at the
kimono fabric and motifs (so beautiful!):



A Seattle ceramic artist's lovely handmade jewelry items,
brand new to the Gallery:  Welcome, Joan!

Porcelain Necklaces
Stunning Mali beads from Africa, threaded on
leather, sold individually in two colors, Cobalt and Aqua.
These are just gorgeous, great accent pieces that transcend
summer jewelry and can be worn singly or as a group,
in one color or mix them up.

Thanks again for stopping by; if you're in the area, please come in and meet these wonderful pieces in person.  In the meantime, we hope you enjoyed this Quick Picks post, and we'll be back soon with another!  (And of course, the next Gallery Picks Newsletter is on its come back soon!)

~S. Roth