Risk and reward in wood-fired pottery | TheUnion.com

Risk and reward in wood-fired pottery

Wood Fired Ceramic Vessel, by Damian Grava.
Submitted photo to Prospector |


WHO: Kenneth Underwood, Museum Collector & 40 National & International Artworks

WHAT: Foothills Ceramic Art Museum Exhibition, Reception & Lecture

WHERE: 940 Idaho Maryland Road, Grass Valley

WHEN: Friday, 5-8 p.m. with the lecture at 6 p.m.

CONTACT: Amanda Paoletti at 530-210-3162 or amandapaoletti.asif@gmail.com

On Friday, from 5-8 p.m. the Artists’ Studio in the Foothills presents The Fire Dance — Foothills Ceramic Art Museum Collector, Kenneth Underwood’s 2017 end of summer exhibition — featuring 40 national and international ceramic artists’ wood fired art works.

A special lecture and power point presentation titled, “Wood Fired Aesthetics” will be given by Underwood on Friday evening starting at 6 p.m.

Special guest and ceramic artist, Patty Eacobacci will share excerpts from her documentary, “The Climbing Kiln of Woolman Lane”, featuring the local Grass Valley wood-firing experience.

Though a small number of pieces will be available for sale, the majority of the artworks in this exhibition are part of the Foothills Ceramic Art Museum’s permanent collection.

Wood has been used to fire pottery for millennia, since the very beginnings of pottery. In fact wood was one of the first fuels used by humans to vitrify clay pots and utensils.

Today a select breed of modern potters and collectors admire the effects that can be achieved by the direct interaction of clay and flame.

Firing with wood is extremely labor intensive. First, one has to build (not buy) a kiln, then collect and chop enough wood to keep a 2000-degree fire going for 3 to 10 days.

Next, they must convince or employ enough helpers to load and fire the kiln ‘round the clock for all of those days, camping and taking shifts in order to maintain heat and safety throughout the process. Wood firing is on all counts, a community project!

And all that labor does not come without risk …

There are many factors which determine the result: the type of wood, the shape and size of the kiln, the placement of the pots, the duration of the firing and the cool-down process.

Err in any one factor or portion of the process and the entire kiln load can be ho-hum. Though get everything right and the results can be breathtaking. The moment of truth when the kiln door is opened is the ultimate reward for a wood fire artist.

Featured artist

“I did not come to appreciate wood-fired pieces for many years,” said Underwood. “They all seemed so brown and rough. But after buying a teabowl from Chuck Solberg in 2002, and learning about this fascinating process I became hooked.”

“I now can see and understand the beauty in a teardrop of glaze that forms at the end of an ash run,” said Underwood. “Or in the teadust crystals that shine like a thousand fireflies. Or in the halos and comet tails that form as the flame blows through the kiln full of pots. I hope that this exhibit will help people appreciate the beauty and subtlety of the wood-fired aesthetic.”

The Foothills Ceramic Art Museum made its home at the studio the summer of 2016.

It features selections of the Underwood permanent collection of internationally acclaimed ceramic artworks.

New and rotating exhibits open about every two months, featuring new selections from the museum’s permanent collection, each with a focus on a particular style, region, genre or technique.

Underwood said “I began collecting ceramics in 1981. The practice reflects my roots in North Carolina, my working years in southern California, my retirement years in northern California, and my travels around the world.”

The collection of over 750 pieces is very eclectic but focuses on functional and sculptural 20th and 21st century one of a kind handmade studio pottery.

The Fire Dance exhibition will be on display through Sept. 23.

ASiF Gallery is open Tuesday — Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For information on classes, workshops and upcoming events and exhibits visit their location at 940 Idaho Maryland Road in Grass Valley, go to asifstudios.com, visit them on Facebook or call the center at 530-274-7000.

Source: Artists’ Studio in the Foothills.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User