Smoke Firing Contemporary Artists and Approaches
Purchase ‘Smoke Firing’ from Amazon or Bloomsbury Publishing‘Smoke Firing is an ancient firing method, used to both fire raw clay intodurable ceramic and also to decorate it with smoke designs. Its technological simplicity not only lends itself to endless interpretations but also encourages artistic creativity through improvisation and experimentation. Smoke Firing is a thorough survey of the varied work and approaches of contemporary artists today, showing recent innovative developments. By investigating the ideas of selected ceramists Jane Perryman reveals the meanings and inspiration behind their work. Clear and colourful images demonstrate the various processes used, showing sequences of artists in action. The book covers smoke firing using bonfires, various containers, earth pits, saggars and kilns, with a chapter on how smoke firing can be used as an educational tool within groups and workshops. Dynamic illustrations feature the work of 29 artists represented from 17 different countries, making it a truly international focus on smoke firing.’
Modern potters who choose to work with such techniques today do so because they can achieve distinctive surface tones and patterns by manipulating the passage and intensity of smoke to impregnate their works.
An extremely high level of sophistication is possible both in design and execution of smoke-fired ceramics, as can be seen and admired among the many inspirational pieces chosen by Jane Perryman to illustrate this new book. She has followed a sound educational format throughout and provides an ideal introduction to smoke firing from historical aspects to the present day. Various firing processes are clearly explained while encouraging continuous experiment with materials and different kinds of fuel in order to discover the widest possible range of effects.
About eighty percent of the book is devoted to a series of excellent folios demonstrating the work, style and personal approaches of twenty nine international ceramists. The thoughts, comments and ideas of these individual artists, together with detailed descriptions of their methods and technical notes is enough to motivate any practising potter, whether student or skilled professional.
Perryman’s considerable experience in teaching groups and running workshops using minimal equipment, often salvaged from the local dump, gives extra credence to the practice and value of smoke firing, which she promotes with such obvious enthusiasm. She suggests that there are endless opportunities for improvisation. This book is an exceptional and entertaining read and a useful reference source for all students of ceramics’.
Peter Lane Ceramic Review no.232
Naked Clay – Ceramics Without Glaze
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‘A growing number of ceramic artists now choose not to glaze their work. Instead they use an unglazed – naked – surface to achieve their design objectives. From slips and terra sigillata to burnishing, engobes, oxide washes and additions to the clay body, there is a wide range of techniques these artists employ to achieve desirable finishes. As these techniques are suitable for a broad spectrum of processes, subject matter and context (from slip casting to hand building, from high to low firing temperatures, from figurative to conceptual, from domestic to public), the scope of the work produced by these artists is enormous. In ‘Naked Clay’ Jane Perryman not only presents the finished ceramics and techniques of an international group of artists but also investigates their ideas and areas of inspiration to further an understanding of their work. Each artist presented here has a unique style and way of working , but they are all connected through their committed relationship to the material and their desire to express their ideas using ‘naked clay’.
This beautifully illustrated book will not only inform and inspire students, professionals and teachers, but it will also fascinate collectors and indeed anyone with an interest in contemporary ceramics.
“There is always a beginning. In the beginning, therefore, there was only earth. Only clay. Only naked clay.
Jane Perryman’s fine new book, Naked Clay: Ceramics Without Glazes, introduces us to the validity of using clay by itself as a medium of artistic expression, without clothing it in glaze. And in its pages we meet ceramic artists who work in this manner without glazes. In a field obsessed with the technology of covering the pot with glazes for purposes of colour, decoration or utility, the suggestion that this may not be necessary or even desirable may strike some as apostasy. Most of us working in ceramics now are rooted in the technology based on the Bernard Leach and the European tradition, as well as that of Chinese and Japanese aesthetics. Yet Jane Perryman makes a strong case for the integration between form and the unglazed surface that allows the clay to breathe and absorb light in an entirely natural way.
In her book Perryman deals with four aspects of clay without glaze: 1. Clay with surface pigment; 2. Clay marked by fire; 3. Pure clay; and 4. Clay with additions. She brings to her book the works and words of forty-four ceramic artists from around the world whose work lies within these categories. Many of them she visited, interviewed and photographed in person. They provide a wide selection of personal and cultural interests for those looking for new directions in clay art. Among the ceramicists described are: Elizabeth Fritsch, an English artist, whose elegant dry-matt surfaces extend the volumes of her vessels by a vocabulary inspired by music; Yo Akiyama, a Japanese ceramist who draws his inspiration from the natural rock strata, among other things; Lawson Oyekan, whose work ‘in the flesh’ has a forceful presence impossible to ignore, and whose work is built up in ‘families’ by overlapping sections of soft clay without slip or water, and into which a knife is thrust and twisted to represent sharp jabs of experience; Thomas Hoadley, an American nerikomi artist, creating handmade bowls into which are inserted slabs of clay made from patterned clay pressed into a plaster mold and combined like patches of fabric on an Amish quilt; Elspeth Owen, from the UK, whose subtle bowl forms are enhanced by the use of oxides and colored slips on their outsides and then fired in salt; and Dorothy Feibleman, from the UK, who adds chemicals to laminated clay which causes them to produce black, wavy lines as the piece expands during the firing.
“Jane Perryman, from the UK, describes her own work thusly: It is “handmade using combinations of coiling, press-molding and slabbing techniques. A porcelain slip is applied before burnishing and then fired to 1000 C. Some pieces are treated with resists, then saggar-fired with sawdust to around 700 C. Other pieces are smoke-fired in oil drums or brick containers outside so that the firing is partly oxidized, giving greater tonal contrast than the saggar firing.”
Jane Perryman’s book Naked Clay has a high level of scholarship and research. It is well written, profusely illustrated, and can be a source of information and inspiration for both students and professionals. This book is a singular contribution to the literature in the ceramic field.”
Gerry Williams for the international electronic journal ‘Interpreting Ceramics’ – issue no.6
Traditional Pottery Of India
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This is an important book, as well as being a pleasure to read it also has many excellent colour photographs taken by the author.
The rich ceramic traditions of the subcontinent have for too long been ignored because of their concentration on earthenware and their lack of interest in glazes, stoneware and porcelain. This book, so refreshingly written by a practicing potter who shares some of the interests and insights of the potters in India, makes a major contribution to the re-evaluation of this great tradition. Perryman’s easy writing style and innate interest in everything which the potter communities deal with, make the book a joy to read. This is not a stuffy academic work but one in which the hopes and fears of the Indian potters are immediately and unselfconsciously understood by the author.
The book is divided into two basic sections, dealing firstly with the vessels and secondly with the use of votive terracotta and sculpture. In both these areas Indian potters have made distinctive contributions – vessels are thrown on a hand spun wheel, but are beaten with a paddle and anvil to achieve their final, round bellied shape, and are frequently decorated with slip colours before firing.
Terracotta sculpture, which in the subcontinent reaches back into the 5th millennium BC, is still a living part of rural society, and is intimately linked with religious observance. Perryman has movingly recorded the production of the offerings made to deities, from the massive 5m. tall terracotta horses of Tamil Nadu in the south, to the intricate black-fired offerings made to the snake deity Manasa in Bengal in the north-east. For each of her two main sections – vessels and terracotta sculpture – she visited different parts of India, recording pottery production and getting to know the potters and their families. The position of potters in India is lowly and their future terribly under threat because of the increasing use of plastic and metal, so these descriptions have the added importance of being an archival record.
For me, the description of the two brothers in Chhota Udaipur was especially poignant as in the early 1980s, I also recorded their figurine production, for the Museum of Mankind (South Asian Studies/1985; 67-77). Examples of their work have been shown in two recent exhibitions – Deities and Devotion; the Arts of Hinduism (1993) and Pottery in the Making (1997, and published again in the catalogue of the same name, BM Press, p170-5)
Anyone concerned to experience the beauty and integrity of ceramic traditions different from their own will enjoy this book.
Richard Blurton, Department of Oriental Antiquities British Museum. Ceramic Review No.186
Smoke Fired Pottery
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For me the most stimulating technical books not only offer clear practical information but also transcend their immediate subject to challenge our understanding of ourselves. Jane Perryman’s Smoke Fired Pottery is such a book.
Her interest in the motives of potters, as well as the methods they use, make it whole and strong. There are many terse references which provide a context as well as an inspiration; the economic, descriptive text unusually extending the high quality illustrations.
The book is sensibly structured. It does not attempt inappropriately to impose scientific explanation on what many contributors describe as a spontaneous process (to me it seems more akin to the nurturing of plants); however I am not convinced that the perceived qualities of smoked ceramics are the results of reduced iron, as suggested, but arise principally from carbon trapping.
Perryman gives a brief but sound historic perspective on smoke firing as well as its contemporary use in societies which still retain a tradition of the technique; in so doing she makes clear that it is a way of making which involves an intimate understanding of materials and the environment; that a knowledge of firing cannot be isolated from the character of the clay, the form, the weather or the function of the pots. Most of the book, however is devoted to potters who work in the developed world and have adopted this so called primitive approach to firing clay for different reasons. She has chosen a range of makers from a number of countries whose methods and attitudes vary; for me when she was able to interview them and interpret their work her insight and sensitivity make the book richer causing the reader to ponder on how potters as well as their pots are made.
The penultimate section deals with the educational potential of smoke firing and is illustrated with a number of case studies representing different ages and abilities. It describes the accessibility of the process and gives value to an open, experimental approach when playing with fire, emphasizing the importance of individual observation and initiative; a useful entrée to the final gallery section of the book showing the work of professionals.
This book should inspire the reader. It shows a respect for technical knowledge but importantly also reveals why some contemporary potters are fascinated by the approach; a reminder that there is no smoke without fire.
Sebastian Blackie – Ceramic Review No.154
Selected Publications – Articles
2016 – Neue Keramik (Germany) August feature article by Linda Theophilus
2015 – Ceramics Monthly (USA) October feature article & cover by Esther Viros
2014 – La Ceramica (Italy) feature article as a finalist in the International Open to Art competition
2014 – Revista Internacional Ceramica no 132 (Spain) feature article
2009 – New Ceramics (Germany) – feature article ‘Smoke Fired Pottery’
2006 – Ceramics Technical no 22 feature article
2005 – The Studio Potter (USA) Volume 33 feature article
2005 – La Revue de la Ceramique et du Verre no. 142 May/June
2005 – New Ceramics / Neue Keramik May/June
2004 – Neue Keramik (Germany) – feature article ‘Jane Perryman’
2003 – Now Showing – Exhibition preview article in Ceramic Review no. 201
2002 – Form Pattern and Smoke – feature article in Ceramics Monthly (January edition)
2000 – Traditional Pottery of India – A & C Black (see review below)
2000 – Rites of Passage – article in Ceramic Review No.183
2000 – A Research Journey in India – article in Ceramics Technical No.10 (Australia)
1999 – A Homage to Indian Potters – article in Neue Keramik (Germany)
1996 – Houses on Fire article in Ceramic Review No.162
1996 – Smoke Fired Pottery – article in April issue of Ceramics Monthly (USA)
1995 – Smoke Fired Pottery – A & C Black (see Review)
1993 – Bodies, Vessels and Imagination – article in Ceramic Review No.141
Selected Publications – Books
2018 – ‘Breaking Ground’ Indian Ceramics Triennale Jawahar Kala Kendra
2007 – ‘Firing; Philosophies within Contemporary Ceramic Practice’ by David Jones Crowood
2006 – ‘Coiling’ by Michael Hardy (A&C Black)
2004 – ‘Alternative Kilns and Firing Techniques’ by James C Watkins & Paul Andrew Wandless (Lark Books New York)
2003 – Revised Edition ‘Coiled Pottery’ by Betty Blandino (A&C Black)
2003 – 500 Bowls – Contemporary Explorations of a Timeless Design – edited by Suzanne J.E. Tourtillot (Lark Books)
2002 – Experience Clay by Maureen Mackay (Davis Publications)
2001 – The Studio Potter Magazine USA – feature article
2001 – ‘Barrel Pit & Saggar Firing’ edited by Sumi von Dassow (Ceramics Monthly publishing)
2000 – Women and Ceramics – Gendered Vessels by Moira Vincentelli (Manchester University Press)
2000 – Contemporary Ceramics by Susan Peterson (Laurence King / Thames & Hudson)
2000 – The Art of Handbuilt Ceramics by Susan Bruce (The Crowood Press)
1999 – The Complete Practical Potter by Josie Warshaw (Anness Publishing)
1999 – Ceramics Monthly (March edition)
1998 – Ceramica No.65 (Spanish)
1998 – The Potter’s Directory of Shape and Form by Neal French (Quarto)
1997 – Handbuilt Ceramics by Cathy Triplett (Lark Books, Altamont Press)
1996 – Coiled Pottery by Betty Blandino (A & C Black)
1994 – Second Shift No.4 (magazine about women and the arts)
1994 – Raku by Tim Andrews (A & C Black)
1994 – Sawdust Firing by Karen Hessenburg (Batsford)
2017 Ceramic Review no 287
2016 Neue Keramiek Aug issue
2016 Ceramic Review no 280
2015 Ceramics Monthly July issue
2013 Ceramic Review no. 264
2012 Ceramic Review no. 258
2010 Ceramic Review no. 245
2009 Ceramic Review no. 237
2007 Ceramic Review no. 232
2006 Ceramic Review no. 220
2000 Ceramic Review no. 186
1999 Ceramic Review no. 176
1997 Ceramic Review no. 168
1995 Ceramic Review no. 154