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Kiln

Just after July 4, 2009, I took down the gas-fueled kiln I had been using for over 25 years.  With the guidance of kiln builder extraordinaire, Howard Keifer,  I built myself a hybrid kiln fueled with wood and gas.  For nine months I laid bricks in all sorts of weather, from heat wave to near freezing.  By using two fuels simultaneously, I found that I use significantly less of both of them, and can fire the kiln myself.  The pots from this 'hybrid' kiln are a new direction for me and my artwork.  I like using fewer glazes, and letting the flames leave their marks on the clay.  Clay bodies, from the whitest porcelain, through stoneware in shades of light brown to iron-rich black give a wide variety of resulting colors and textures.  The few glazes I use now react with the wood ash differently depending on their location in the kiln.  Light and dark clays on the same piece yield beautiful contrast on the same pot.  I am very excited about the new directions I can take with my claywork.

For anyone interested, I blogged my kiln-building progress:  http://susansnewkiln.blogspot.com  There are many photos that accompany my trials and tribulations during this project.

The first firing fueled with wood & propane was very successful. I was pleased with the pots and the directions my imaginings could go from there.  Photos of flames coming from the kiln and chimney are exciting (to me). I posted photos of the firing and resulting pots on Flickr:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/51536090@N08 

Education

I graduated from the University of California at Irvine (Environmental Quality), then discovered pottery afterward.  My first clay class was at the Maude Kerns Art Center in Eugene, Oregon.  I returned to California, and kept taking pottery classes.  Eventually an instructor got tired of my badgering him with questions, and encouraged my return to California State University at Long Beach to learn glaze chemistry and kiln firing as well as increase my throwing proficiency. 

In the ensuing years, I took many workshops from noted potters as Harry Davis, John Glick, Karen Karnes, Nils Lou, Tony Marsh, Robin Hopper, Pat Horsley and Robert Turner.  Another early influence was Paul Soldner (while potting at Anderson Ranch, Snowmass, Colorado).

I learned to handbuild with clay after a severe shoulder injury prevented me from throwing on the potters wheel.   In early 1990's I took classes at Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Nevada.   It was there that I discovered wood-fired kilns, and rediscovered raku.  More workshops followed, including:   Paul Lewing, Warren MacKenzie, Carol Sphar, Stephen Hill, Catherine Hiersoux and Yoshiro Ikeda.

In the middle 1990's, I took in classes at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon where I enrolled in Drawing, Design and Sculpture classes.  Much as I wished I had taken these classes 30 years earlier, I found it is never too late.  Invigorated with learning, I attended graduate courses at the University of Oregon.  I was fortunate to take classes and seminars from George Kokis, before his retirement. 

I keep taking workshops, including Jim Romberg, Leslie Lee, Dennis Meiners and Katy McFadden, as learning never ends.  More recently, I learned how to paint and fire metallics & lusters on finished pots from Chris Kienle.  Not all new techniques and methods get incorporated into my artwork immediately or at all.  It is hard to categorize what influences my artwork most.  Life, nature, history, philosophy, travel have all helped to keep my senses open and aware.

An unusual group of women artists, all named Susan, came together where I live in the 'Hundred Valleys of the Umpqua'. We met casually at first, at Susan Creek on the Umpqua River here in Southern Oregon. We have joined together for a few group art shows in Douglas County where we hail from. As our friendships grew, so did the influence I felt from these incredible women. They have encouraged me to reach higher and farther in my artwork, I am forever indebted to them.