The Island Gallery
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The Island Gallery
106 Madison Avenue North
Bainbridge Island, WA. 98110

Tel. 206-780-9500
Fax. 206-780-7811
For more information, contact
Susan Swannack-Nunn, Owner

July 25, 2005. For immediate release.
Exhibition: CONTEMPORARY WOOD FIRE: INTERPRETATIONS Barb Campbell, John Harris, Terry Inokuma, Chris Knapp, Hiroshi Ogawa, Beverly Saito, Jack Walsh & Natalie Warrens
Exhibition Dates: August 5-31, 2005
Opening Reception: First Friday, August 5, 6-8 p.m.

During the month of August The Island Gallery celebrates the work of eight leading Northwest wood fire ceramic artists who fire at the Hikarigama Kiln in Elkton, Oregon, owned by Hiroshi Ogawa. This kiln, built in 1981, is a Japanese style anagama kiln that has attracted ceramic artists from across the country. Hiroshi has inspired and worked with many artists over more than two decades. A fire burned the studio in 2003 but spared the kiln, and an outpouring of community support helped in the restoration of the property. The kiln is again attracting dedicated wood fire enthusiasts. The work exhibited in this show ranges from rustic tea bowls and porcelain figures adorned with metal, stone and wood, to elegant tea ceremony vessels, wheel thrown stoneware bottles, and large dramatic pots.

The Artists. All eight ceramic artists are studio potters and educators who have come to wood firing at different points in their lives, but all have been captivated by the process. A visitor to the show will have the opportunity to see both contrasts and commonality in work among the artists. Barb Campbell is sculpting human figures and adorning her figures with natural materials; John Harris and Chris Knapp hand build and throw large dramatic vessels, revealing the serendipitous paths of the fire. Hiroshi is known for his elegant tea bowls and vessels associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, Beverly Saito builds whimsical bird houses and chairs, Jack Walsh and Natalie Warrens are creating unusually shaped bottles and vases. The work of these artists has been shown in exhibitions across the United States and abroad and is represented in museums, universities, and corporate and private collections.

Background of the Hikarigama Illuminated Kiln. The two chambered woodfire kiln was christened "Hikarigama"or the Illuminated Kiln in 1981. The kiln is representative of the traditional Japanese anagama kiln. It is a long tunnel shaped structure with a firebox at one end and a chimney at the other. Often built on a hill, the anagama kiln's intense heat produces the elegant wood fired ceramics revered in Japan and with a growing following throughout the United States and abroad. The Hikarigama Kiln is fired about four times a year. During firings, some 8-9 potters work in shifts over several weeks, first loading the kiln over two days, then continuously feeding and stoking the fires for five or more days until the interior temperatures reach 2000-plus degrees Fahrenheit. It then takes seven days of cooling down before the door can be opened. Along with this extreme heat, many other elements affect the outcome of each object placed in the kiln: clay; season of firing; condition and genus of wood; location within the kiln chamber; glazes; and luck. No two pieces are alike.

The Allure of Wood Fire. The comments of two of the artists in the show reveal why potters are both captivated and challenged by the process of wood fire. Natalie Warrens contrasts making ceramics using the more common gas vs. woodfire kiln, noting the intimate collaboration with the kiln and the human interactions required in wood fire.

After 25 years of making pots, I finally had the opportunity to actually "fire" my work at Hiroshi Ogawa's anagama kiln. In a world of push buttons, knobs, gauges, and digital screens, firing clay involves a time line where reading cones, color and flame is a response to the heat. In contrast, making the fire and using wood as fuel allows my hand to be involved in the transformative process as a collaborator with the kiln. Working with a team of artists around the clock for four days to fire a woodfire kiln also creates an environment which strengthens people's relationships with each other as with the clay.

John Harris emphasizes collaboration with the kiln:

Wood fired ceramic surfaces take me a long time to understand. As a collaborator with a mute partner, when the fire is finished, I'm forced to observe visually and tactually the finished surface revealed from my unspeaking partner. What a joyful collaboration! Sometimes, I look a long time before understanding what the kiln has said.

The Island Gallery - Contemporary adaptations of ancient artistic traditions: Indonesian Textile Art, Wood-Fired Ceramics and Wood Objects from Northwest Artists. A portion of the Gallery's profits help support the non-profit Institute for Cross Cultural Art, promoting the preservation and development of traditional art forms and facilitating interaction of artists.