Atmospheric firing encapsulates many of the best parts of working with clay: the communal nature of tending to the kiln, the sharing of experiential knowledge, the rich surfaces marked by flame, the surprises that come out of the kiln. Though my own experience with atmospheric firing is not extensive, each kiln firing I’ve been able to participate in was memorable and rewarding. I still treasure the traded pots that came from the inaugural firing of a wood kiln that I helped construct as a special project in my final year of college—they remind me of their makers, as well as the acute excitement of being immersed in a whole new, intensive ceramic process. This issue focuses on the conceptual, collaborative, and mechanical elements of atmospheric firing.
Willi Singleton’s career in ceramics spans more than four decades and countless firings. Andrew Buck, EdD, describes how Singleton blends influences from traditional Japanese pottery he acquired while studying overseas with his American identity and locale. The teabowls he throws and wood fires are especially emblematic of his ethos on functional forms as vessels for communion.
The Cookout was a two-week residency program of fourteen Black ceramic artists at the Hambidge Center in Rabun Gap, Georgia, which coincided with Juneteenth in 2023. Yinka Orafidiya, ceramic artist and founder of OYA Studio, describes how the residency provided participants the chance to forge strong cross-generational connections, make work freely, and fire the wood kiln together, all unique opportunities they would not have experienced otherwise.
Johnny Arvizu makes soda-fired pottery with flashing slips that use clay from his hometown. This addition yields surfaces with depth and variation, and a permanent connection to home. Arvizu outlines his throwing and alteration process for making a pitcher, and also shares several reliable soda-firing recipes.
In addition to perspectives centered on atmospheric firing, this issue includes technical information useful to all who glaze; a Q & A with Alison Palmer on running workshops; a glimpse into the West Fargo studio of Catie Miller, where efficiency and balance are critical to the working flow; Tim Saunders’ articles on two artists, Kaori Tatebayashi (shown on the cover) and Derek Wilson, whose subdued bodies of work are potent in contemplation; and Judith Lemmens’ progress in building a career in clay, then relocating thousands of miles away and facing the task of starting anew.
I hope you find inspiration in the stories and information that follow, and I urge you to immerse yourself in the next communal wood, salt, or soda firing that presents itself. Enjoy!