By Natasha Anderson
The Madison County Arts Council (MCAC) presents the WNC Woodfire Ceramics Invitational, opening with a reception on Thursday, May 19, from 5–8 p.m., and running through June 11 at The Arts Center in Marshall. The exhibit is in conjunction with The Mountain PreHEAT, a precursor to Envision 2022, an International Woodfire Conference at STARworks in Star, located just south of Seagrove. During PreHEAT, the region’s top woodfirers gather along with a host of national and international guests for seven days of complete immersion into woodfiring.
“The history of this ancient process can inform one’s decisions and root one in tradition, but it can also trap you in the past if you let it,” says potter and event organizer Josh Copus. “The methods we use are not dissimilar from methods that have been used for thousands of years, but I think our goals and intentions with the work are very contemporary.”
The Arts Center exhibition speaks to the diversity and strength of woodfiring by bringing together the aforementioned established and emerging makers and highlighting the quality and current trends in WNC pottery. The region is home to some of the field’s top artists and continues to attract valuable voices that push the medium in new directions.
“I hope that viewers will appreciate the stunning abundance of talent by artists from all kinds of backgrounds who choose this beautiful region to build their dreams and create this work,” says potter Joey Sheehan. “I want viewers to be inspired by the incredible types of ceramics that can be created in a wood kiln, and know that it can, and is, being done right here in their own backyards.”
Sheehan’s work is a product of several years of experimentation with an innovative hybrid kiln that produces three distinctive surface treatments in a single burn. Work from this kiln demonstrates to viewers the many possibilities and variations that are achievable with this ancient, yet incredibly contemporary firing method.
Candice Hensley will exhibit vase forms and pitchers, some with a double curve and some that are fat and squat with ample shoulders for wood ash drippings to create a varied surface on. Akira Satake’s work is created by mixing air and other materials into the clay body and then tearing off the clay and/or cutting with a wire to create the intended shapes.
“My work is a collaboration between myself, the clay and the fire,” says Satake. “This collaboration means finding what the clay wants to be and bringing out its beauty in the way that the beauty of our surroundings is created through natural forces.”
John Cummings will exhibit a large-scale sculpture inspired by historical Chinese ceramic works, specifically conjoined vases. Its surface treatment is inspired by abstract expressionist painters, including Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
“I built it by using clay slabs stacked, formed and manipulated to create the work,” says Cummings. “I learned this particular process while working for Jun Kaneko as an artist assistant.”
Other exhibiting artists include Galen Sedberry, Shane Mickey, Lindsay West, Ken Sedberry, Gillan Doty and Jason Hartsoe.