My students and I prepared for the worst. But look at the faces of Sara (left) and Monique (right). It wasn’t all bad. No cones down, Oxyprobe reading said that we were only at about cone 3 and, of course, no real view into that wood kiln when we ran out of wood. We were disappointed but at every turn, there was something to be learned. Today, as a few of us unloaded the kiln, there was confirmation that the shelves were too close to the back wall. Next time, they will be 10 cm away! But, of course, we need wood. Manitoba surely isn’t known for its abundant forests. Too bad. Several are searching to try and help us. So, what we need are logs, no bigger in diameter than 15 cm but at least 1 metre long or able to be cut to 1 metre. And they need to be dry. But…for the disappointment, there was also some joy. Some of the pieces did get some lovely ash and some of the glazes did mature. Have a look!
Today was officially day 4 of the Third European Wood Fire Conference in LeBorne, France. It is just such a magical place. To reach LeBorne from Bourges, about a 40 minute drive using winding country roads, you pass through corn and sunflower fields. As you get closer, you enter the forests that have supplied the potters in the area with wood for centuries. Indeed, several Roman-Gallo kilns have been unearthed and the conference has recreated two of these for the participants to see how they were constructed. My very good friend, Dr Julia Nema from Budapest, spoke to the influences of Malevich and Moholgy-Nagy on her light sculptures while Fred Olsen provided everyone with a reason to use cartable for building a wood kiln instead of bricks. Other events included a round table discussion on the future of wood firing, tours to two local museums, and, of course, the numerous open studios of the potters living and working in LeBorne. You do not have to look far to find pottery sitting in gardens, on shelves of buildings or gracing gardens. The anagama kiln will be finished firing tomorrow and if the rain would stop we might actually see the bottle kiln finished!
The first conference was held in Brollin and my friend, Markus Boehm, who came to build the Bourry Box kiln for the School in June, headed up that committee. Priscilla Mouritzen was part of the team that hosted the second conference at the International Ceramic Research Centre in Skaelskor, Germany. At that time only Denmark was wanting to host the second one. It appears that was the case with the third being in LeBorne but, the events are so successful that this time there are four centres vying for the fourth conference in 2022. It reminds me now of the Olympics. But, I keep asking: who decides who will be the host? Since this has not been a problem previously, no one seems to be able to answer. The short list contenders are: Russia, Latvia, Barcelona, and Belgium. Everyone will find out Friday morning!
Meanwhile, I am staring at a stack of catalogues and books that I would never be able to readily find in Canada or on Amazon – as well as some pottery – and trying to figure out how I am going to get this back to Canada next week. The local potters would have sold much more to ‘the foreigners’ if someone had the foresight to have a ‘for charge’ packing and mailing business locally for this event.
The permit is in hand, the materials are on site or on their way, and excitement is beginning to stir. It is just 16 days away from the first day of the wood kiln workshop at the School of Art, University of Manitoba. I have opened up 2 additional spaces for another lucky 2 people to join us. If you know of anyone, please let me know. The fee is $325 – a bargain. If you are coming from out of town, there is accommodation at St John College for $55 per day and that includes three meals. Feel free to contact me for further information or any questions you might have. It is a great group coming from Budapest, Vancouver, Maple Creek, Red Deer and Winnipeg!
Sadly, one of our participants is unable due to an illness in their family. So if you have been hoping to be part of this amazing workshop with Markus Boehm and missed out, now is your chance. The cost is $325. If you are coming from out of town, we have arranged accommodation and three meals per day at St John’s College for only $55. What a bargain! And their food is good, too. Best on campus most days.
The School of Art at the University of Manitoba is hosting a Bourry box kiln building workshop with Markus Boehm from June 21-30. It will be a one cubic metre kiln and participants are asked to bring pieces for the firing. The fee is $325. Spaces are limited and are on a first come basis. Please e-mail me of your interest: email@example.com
Markus Boehm lives in Alt Gaarz, Germany where he has his studio and a sales shop and gallery. In 1989 he passed the rigorous state examinations of the GDR to receive his master potters certification. Boehm was the driving force behind the First European Wood Fire Conference in Brollin, Germany in 2010, an event that was so successful it spread to Denmark for 2014 and to France for August 2018.
Richard Selfridge arrived in Canada in 1969 to pursue a PhD in Political Science. A native of Seattle Washington, he first studied at Washington State University leaving the United States just before completing his PhD dissertation in Political Philosophy. Selfridge taught at the University of Alberta for four years. He became a Canadian citizen in 1974.
Richard Selfridge never intended to become a potter. But life has a way of throwing curve balls at each of us. “Happy Accidents” was what Paul Soldner used to call them. In between his studies, Richard met Carol and his interest in ceramics began. In 1973 he took his first pottery lessons with David Green, one of the individuals behind the formation and an instructor for the Edmonton Potters Guild. These early classes were followed by specialized
studies at the Banff Center with Wayne Ngan, Walter Keeler, Tom Coleman and Janice Tchalenko, amongst others. A year later Richard built his first electric kiln with a single chamber downdraft gas kiln quickly following in 1975. He was hooked on clay! Carol and Richard are both interested in clay, its form and its functionality. At the same time, they are passionate about experimenting with different firing temperatures and glaze effects. The couple built a two chamber cross draft gas and wood-fired salt chamber kiln in 1980 while continuing to fire their majolica in the electric kiln. In 2001, they built a wood-fired coffin kiln. Since 1974 their work has been a joyful collaboration.
The duo taught at the Student’s Union at the University of Alberta in the 1970s, later teaching for the Extension Division of the University of Alberta. Carol was a high school art teacher in Vancouver and Edmonton from 1969-74. Her interest in the figure and drawing have been furthered by workshops at Red Deer College, The Banff Center, and the University of Alberta. In addition to more than 250 international exhibitions, Richard and Carol have also taught workshops across Canada and internationally while still finding time to host two annual studio sales per year since 1974. The pair received major grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council. They are nothing short of prolific in their output and the generosity with which they share their knowledge of firing effects and glazing. Their work was part of the prestigious Claridge Collection.