The work featured in Contemporary Traditionalists is proof of a commitment to traditional craft methods. Most of the makers are in the early phases of a career as functional potters who release their wares into an atmosphere that will dominate the forms they have painstakingly rendered after multitudinous hours of development. Every object you see represented is the result of an evolving relationship with a kiln.
In the early stages of learning the craft of firing an atmospheric kiln one is likely to hear about the mysteries occurring within the kiln chamber. This idea has always bothered me, because it minimizes the commitment necessary to achieve longevity. Traditionally, potters who worked with atmospheric firing methods have one kiln they, or their entire village used. They come to know every section of the interior chamber. They understand the airflow and how the fire will move around the wares. They make educated decisions about what wood or combination of salt or soda will leave the best deposits on the surface of the clay, reacting with the clay body to reveal a known spectrum of results. Allowing for a few updates in technology, the process remains the same centuries later.
Imagine the risk each maker assumes when they release their wares into an unfamiliar kiln, embarking on a new relationship. While there are consistencies in kiln design and stacking methods, some controls to be relied upon, all else is variable. Consequences are heightened in atmospheric firing, often because of, not only the massive size of many of the kilns, but also because of the labor involved in the process.
The objects presented are thick with character. They have to be in order to withstand the high temperatures of the kiln, which then betters their mettle in the domestic realm post firing.
Critics dismiss these traditional objects, dubbing them “round and brown”. Such categorization is an easy and jaded assessment. Within this exhibition the viewer has the opportunity to look deeper and meditate on the vast array of hue and surface held within a narrow spectrum. As the eye glances around the room, take in the unity of warmth. Then allow the eye to see the variety brought forth from each hand, from each kiln, from each clay body.
In the youth of contemporary ceramics there are still those who keep the traditions whole.