Today marks the start of week 3 of farm life for me. My first two weeks have provided many amazing experiences, from cliff jumping to yoga to private islands to photography. Yes, all of this from a farm! Not only am I here at Better Farm as an artist resident, I also attended a couple workshops, and participate in what I refer to as “farm life,” which includes chores around the house, helping to feed the masses, and soaking in the simplicity of a life removed from the clamor of the city.
As a full-time teacher, I’m trying to make the most of my time here to focus on another love of my life, pottery. I brought with me a propane-fueled raku kiln, which was converted from electric. And what a find this kiln was! Only $25 at a yard sale…always keep an eye out for old kilns, which can easily be restored with new parts or converted for raku. The beast still needs some work, but I am very excited to experiment with the mysterious world of raku, as it produces some of the most stunning glaze effects I’ve found.
I work on my pottery in an old barn at the farm. I’ve found the open air and quiet surroundings allow for an atmosphere of mind wandering that serves me well. I have been hand-building all my pieces because I didn’t bring my newly purchased wheel. Hand building takes significantly longer than just throwing a piece on the wheel, but I enjoy making sculptural creatures of various sorts, and slab building more functional pieces.
I took pictures of all my greenware after my first experience attempting to fire my kiln. As I struggled to get the propane to oxygen ratio right, I occasionally heard some loud popping going on inside. I hoped it was just some debris igniting. After the wind blew out my flame, and I determined some major modifications were needed to fire properly, I gave up. When I opened the lid I was very disappointed to learn that the popping noise was, in fact, some of my work shattering to pieces. Fortunately anything I spent significant time on was safe. I know what errors I made, so even though the first firing attempt was a failure, I learned a lot from the experience.
I was very happy to find that there is a pottery studio only about a mile down the street, Dragonfly Pottery. I went to visit with Ann Donovan, a local art teacher and potter, who seems very knowledgeable about all aspects of pottery after 18 years of experience. I will be spending some time at her studio, using her wheels, kilns, clay and tools, as well as learning more about mixing glazes.
I look forward to seeing where my mind and hands wander, and what creations result. Soon I’ll also share more about the amazing workshop experiences I’ve had here at Better Farm.