My love affair with clay began in the early 1970’s as an undergraduate art student at a small Midwest liberal arts college. Counterculture influences and my farm-boy background combined, to make a career in pottery an appealing synthesis of practicality, art, and craft husbandry. Beth Kirchhoff, my wife of 41 years, is a musician; pianist, accompanist, and chorus master. We enjoy comparing the similarities of our chosen careers. The respect, understanding, and interpretation of traditional forms, both pottery and music, are clear priorities for each of us.
SHAPE and FORM
The beginnings of pottery go hand in hand with the beginnings of humankind. Of contemporary crafts, only basket making is as fundamental. The shapes of pottery are the shapes of the human body, and are named such: lip, foot, and shoulder. They are shapes we know very well on a level beneath our consciousness.
My forms are extensions of traditional pottery with contemporary variations. They're strong, sleek and sculptural with a bold painterly surface and rich glaze treatment. The pieces have a dynamic impact when viewed from a distance as well as an intensity of detail up close.
THREE DIMENSIONAL PAINTING
As an art student, form and function drew me to pottery, but painting is an increasingly important aspect of my work. My best pots resolve the difficulty of painting in three dimension, while maintaining the integrity of the form.
As an art student, form and function drew me to pottery, but painting is an increasingly important aspect of my work.
My best pots resolve the difficulty of painting in three dimension, and maintain the integrity of the form.
Brace Point Pottery
The studio workshop at Brace Point Pottery is complete, with pottery wheels, clay extruders, glaze spray booth, slab roller, slip mixer, pug mill, casting table, electric and gas fired kilns, in 3000 sf of indoor and outdoor space.
WHEEL THROWN, HAND BUILT, or SLIP CAST
My porcelain pottery is wheel thrown, hand built, or slip cast. Some forms begin as a thrown piece; others are sculpted from a block of plaster or wood. Thrown and hand-built attachments make individuation possible. I began slip casting to cure the warping problems of press molding and opened new doors of design possibilities. The mold making process, a steep self-taught learning curve, has suggested new directions for shapes, which could only be slip cast.
After a low temperature bisque firing, multiple glazes are sprayed, brushed, dipped, and squirted over the pieces. Seven airbrushes and sprayers are used in a well-ventilated booth, masking, spraying and overlapping glazes.
On top of the glaze, I apply gestural lines and swirls, art marks and squeeze art, of various colored glazes using bottles and syringes. Nuanced combinations of matte, gloss, and reactive glazes are tied together by these linear elements over a three dimensional canvas.
The glaze surface design is like a landscape–a horizon line, dark color on the bottom, lighter colors on top—without being representational. I layer the texture and opacity of the glazes to provoke a depth of field. The eye is drawn into the piece with clear glazes and stopped at the surface with the more opaque glazes. The form and surface should appear integrated and mutually dependent.
GAS-FUELED KILN FIRING
The final step is firing 50-70 pieces at a time in a gas-fueled kiln, to 2380 degrees F, in a reducing atmosphere. This process allows for a saturation of color and glaze/clay interaction especially with iron and titanium bearing glazes and the possibility of unpredictable aventurine crystal formation as well as the dramatic and somewhat elusive copper red.