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!
Believe it or not, with all the heat, the sweat, the need for a shower – when the kiln reached temperature, it was almost disbelief by those standing doing the last shifts. Amazing group of people who then dug in and cleaned up the kiln pad and who can’t wait to hear a talk by Markus tomorrow and see the results late Saturday.
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.
I do not know when I was first introduced to Gunda Stewart. I wish I could remember who it was that told me to contact her because I would like to thank them. I consider her a dear friend, a treasure, that came into my life so unexpectedly. I do remember flying into the tiny airport at Cranbrook from Calgary. What a view over the Rockies! And driving a rental car – some sort of Honda that had to have rear wheel drive through the mountains, south to Canyon BC. On the road to Gunda’s studio and home, nestled in the valley of the Selkirk and Purcell Mountains, there is a single blue artisan sign. But it doesn’t tell you that if you follow it, you will discover one of Canada’s best wood fire potters!!!! Gunda lives on a beautiful acreage with gardens, both flower and vegetable, with her partner Wayne and their dog, Sadie. Her studio is separate from the house and next to it is her Mamabigama 40 cubic foot wood kiln. It is a beauty!
Gunda studied with Tam Irving at the Vancouver School of Art. Her work clearly shows the influence of Irving as well as Irving’s friend, John Reeve, who also taught at the VSA for a short time. Her temmoku bowls, mugs, and baskets are covered by the deep rich iron glaze breaking at the lip into kaki (persimmon). She says she puts them at the back of her kiln and in the front is the ash glazed ware, runny and luscious.
Her work is sold at the local artisan market during the summer and at several holidays sales in the late fall. She also has a few sales out of her studio and visitors are welcome to drop by and purchase ware when there is not a public market or sale.
I often wonder if the people who attend the weekend markets in Canyon beginning in May know what a treasure they have in their midst? Or does the old adage, ‘You are not a prophet in your own land’ still apply? Google her. She has her own website where she features images of recent work. This was a bad year for all the wood firers in British Columbia. The wildfires kept the fire ban going until the end of September. Then it was a mad rush to fire the kiln, load after load, tiring and backbreaking at the same time, to get everything ready for the holiday markets.
Now that the season is drawing to a close, Gunda tells me she is ready to curl up, drink nice tea, and read a few good books as the snow covers the landscape in the winter.
If you happen to be in the area, follow the artisan sign. You will be so happy you did!