Artist Q&A: Meet Terri Axness

Ceramics Monthly Editors: How did the annual raku workshop hosted at your studio get started?

Terri Axness (in front row in blue t-shirt, blue apron and gloves): Coming on its sixth year in 2018, the workshop is held in June at my studio and ranch in Haines, Oregon, and always fills to capacity a year prior. It all started in 2012 when I contacted Kevin Flynn (front row, holding the tongs), a potter in Boise, Idaho, about the possibility of joining me to lead a workshop. Attendance was limited to 15 for the first few years, it increased to 18 plus the visitors who come to watch the process.

CM: How do you get the word out about the workshop?

TA: My studio is located in rural Eastern Oregon, at the base of the Elkhorn mountains. Crossroads Carnegie Art Center of Baker City, Oregon, promoted the workshop, and Kevin spreads the word in Boise, which is 130 miles to the southeast of Haines. Once established, the workshop participants, who come from across the region, have reserved a spot as soon as possible.

CM: How many different techniques are taught during the workshop each year? How did you create and maintain the collaborative environment?

TA: As the workshop evolved, participants focused on the different raku techniques presented and have returned as presenters to share the results of their work.

Flynn introduced many in the group to raku and has been an inspiration for all. He shares how he creates beautiful images on clay by atomizing copper and yellow iron oxide, using cut-out silhouettes, and manipulating flames during the reduction process in the can.

Tim Murphy (far left) demonstrates horsehair raku, a method of decorating pottery by applying horsehair to the pots after they are removed from the kiln. Murphy enhances his results by using a torch to lengthen the imprint of the horsehair pattern.

Alan Giltzow (far right) has developed and refined the foil saggar method, a technique that uses aluminum foil to trap volatile chemical vapors next to the clay surface. When heated, those materials fume to color the clay in varied and random patterns. Giltzow and Murphy both provide a wealth of information for using different chemicals, firing temperatures, and techniques for wrapping the pots to produce desired effects.

Using slips, masking techniques for creating design, a firing schedule, and a smoking process that they have developed, Matt and Melodee Sather (middle row, far right, in front of Giltzow, both wearing blue shirts) lead instruction for creating naked raku pieces. Naked raku gets its racy name because during the process of firing, the outer shell of slip or glaze that was applied falls off, revealing the bare surface of the pot underneath.

I explain the use of multiple raku glazes and share the various possibilities that come from combining and mixing glazes for both figurative and traditional pieces.

My husband Dennis and I provide the space and facilities, which have expanded to three covered buildings that each have a raku kiln, sand pits, and tables. The studio offers three large rooms for glazing, demonstrations, and collaboration. Participants can also see numerous finished examples of each technique as well as fired test tiles for each glaze, chemicals used for saggar, and slips for naked raku.

The workshop is a tribute to infinite possibilities when clay, imagination, and collaboration meet. Everyone brings something to add to the spirit and element of surprise inherent in the raku process.

Thank you to Lisa Britton for her help with this article.

Photo: Timothy Bishop.

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