I am always looking for ways to stay engaged and active in my work. Sometimes this means restricting my palette, other times it means altering my narrative or adapting new motifs. Recently, spurred on by curiosity about making a more easily marketable and producible line of my work, I began looking into Mid Century Modern Ceramics and Bauhaus Ceramics. I was not surprised to find a wide variety of ceramicists and important makers. I was however surprised to find a name that I had seen in work that was still in production. Edith Heath who founded Heath Ceramics here in California in 1948 with her husband Brian. Some of you may be more familiar with her work and accomplishments than I was but those of you who aren’t really should be.

Edith Heath was born in Iowa in 1911 and was a child of the depression which strengthened her resourcefulness. After taking a art education course in the 1930’s she redesigned a treadle powered sewing machine into a potters wheel and started making work with her husband in California. In 1943, ever the student and always curious, she partitioned the University of California Berkeley’s extension program to host a yearlong course in clay and glaze chemistry where she learned to engineer her own clay bodies and glazes. She focused her work on developing simplistic forms and glazes which were instep with popular aesthetic of the modernist architecture which was in full bloom at the time. She would become known for her use of local California clays in the production of her wares. These clays were rich in unrefined ores which created dark speckles that shone through her unique glazes.

In the late 1940’s she was active in the ceramics community, exhibiting at the Syracuse Ceramic Nationals (from 1946-1950) and working in her own studio. She was fortunate enough to be asked by Gumps (which is a luxury home furnishing and decor retailer founded in 1861 in San Francisco) to supply a line of her work for their stores. While she took on a few assistants she continued to actively participate in the production of her line and by 1949 Heath Ceramics was producing 10,000 pieces a year. Before his death in 1959 Frank Lloyd Wright had even been taken with her wares and commissioned several sets for specific projects of his.

Amazingly her “Coupe” line of ware has been in production since 1948 and has built a tremendous base of followers and collectors. Also important to her success was the development of a line of tiles for architectural and commercial use. In this line she embraced variety and eschewed uniformity by hand making the entire line. This line of tiles won her the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. She was the first non-architect to win this distinction. Architects such as Eero Saarinen, Alexander Girard, William Pereira and others specifically designated the use of her tiles for a number of projects. In her life time she exhibited and won awards from the de Young Museum, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and others.

Edith Heath died in 2006 at the age of 94 only selling her ceramic business in 2003 to Robin Petravic and Catherine Bailey who are currently running and operating under the original name of Heath Ceramics and are continuing to win numerous awards while moving the pottery forward.

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Sources:

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Edith-Heath-renowned-ceramicist-2507635.php

 

Bray, Hazel V. (1980). The Potter’s Art in California 1885-1955. Oakland, CA: The Oakland Museum Art Department. p. 62. ISBN 0-295-96200-3.

 

Klausner, Amos (2006). Heath Ceramics, The Complexity of Simplicity. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, LLC. p. 20. ISBN 0-8118-5560-0.

 

http://ecosalon.com/heath-ceramics/

 

http://pmcaonline.org/exhibitions/edith-heath-tabletop-modernist/

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Beholding Beauty Art Center hosts reception for multiple art installations in May

by: Matthew Caine

There are three amazing artists, each a virtuoso of their chosen forms, exhibiting for the month of May at the Willits Center for the Arts. The latest shows, which both had an opening reception on Saturday night, are an eclectic blend of creativity and expression. Upstairs are the paintings and texture studies of Holly Cratty, a fine artist and poet who unfortunately passed away in 2012. In the main gallery downstairs is the show collectively known as “Vessels,” which is a juxtaposition of HP Bloomer’s ceramic vessels and Craig Gardner’s photographs of the “vessels” that are pregnant and nursing mothers. Holly Cratty, who was known locally through her work at the Blue Sky Gallery, was a renaissance artist who practiced various forms of paintings, from stunning sunsets and seascapes, to deep texture studies. According to her husband, Scott Cratty, she would obsess on one form of painting until she exhausted her energy and interest in that form. Then she would find another discipline and work on that form until she would find another technique that would interest her. Her dedication is evident in the work that is being shown in the upstairs gallery. She also wrote books of poetry, one of which is available at the gallery. Gallery manager Holly Madrigal reached out to Scott Cratty to fill the space, which was a challenge, as Holly Cratty’s work is being shown in seven galleries concurrently and there was – at a first look – little left to show other than some “juvenilia and intense geometric abstract stuff” which may not have been apt for the space. Luckily, Scott Cratty was able to find some excellent examples of his wife’s work, which will be exhibited for two months in her show titled, “One of a Kind.” The Crattys are known in the area for opening the Westside Renaissance Market in Ukiah at 1003 West Clay Street. The market is the “last neighborhood market in Ukiah,” specializing in local foods and a vast variety of beer. HP Bloomer IV’s work, in the lower gallery, is a blending of various forms of ceramics, which are decorated with iconic and primitive-seeming designs. “[The] patterns originate from an interest in interior design, fashion design, architecture and painting,” reveals Bloomer. “The patterns, through repetition, become narrative for me. I use them in the context of personal language as it relates to people close to me, experience, or geography. I use them to tell my story.” Bloomer comes from a creative ceramic family in Texas. He was exposed to the art form at an early age by his mother who has a master’s in ceramics. He now lives in Cobb and teaches ceramics and sculpture as an adjunct professor at Mendocino College in Ukiah. He originally pursued a degree in painting and drawing, but ended up with a master’s in ceramics. Bloomer asked the gallery to place flowers in some of his pieces. He likes his work to have function as well as form. “There is something nice about ceramics that, when it’s approached correctly, is a bit subversive, in that most of the objects are generally very accessible to the viewer,” he shares. “Anyone can relate to a mug, or a cup, or a butter dish. Our society is so far away from handmade objects that in some regards, I consider it a rebellious act to make an art object that is a functional, everyday piece of art that the owner can interact with in very personal spaces in their lives. Bloomer concludes: “So I’m kind of putting that message into their hands and sending it out into the world. People then can be creative in the way they display the piece, where they place it, and how they use it.” Photographer Craig Gardner has been an integral member of the Willits Center for the Arts for several years, participating in the Willits Photo Club and their yearly shows. He came up with the concept for this show a few years ago when he observed controversy concerning mothers nursing in public – an act that he considers a beautiful rite between mother and child, and one that should not be stigmatized and vilified by the misperceptions of people who fail to see the beauty.

WillitsWeekly_05112017_APages

Here is a link to the original and full article:

http://www.willitsweekly.com/documents/WillitsWeekly_05112017_APages.pdf

These are a few clays that I have tested for shrinkage and temperature range from around the Cobb Mountain Arts & Ecology Project area. This area is rich in volcanic activity and many of the clays are derived from rhyolites, which are silica rich volcanic rocks, formed during those actives.  It would seem that several of them are quite similar when fired but will often have slight nuances in texture and particle size or inclusion. These are all tests that I ran a few months back and am just getting to publishing now.  All tests were run in electric/oxidation except for the final cone 10 tiles which were fired in gas reduction. There are a few more clays that I have not shared in this post but may add later on. I hope that this can become a resource for future makers in the Cobb area and a inspiration for those of you who are interested in finding local clays.

ADAMS SPRINGS BLUFF CLAY

Adams Springs Bluff Clay

GPS: 38.857996, -122.719689

Very coarse grained clay that begins to vitrify at cone 6 and starts sticking to surfaces at cone 10. It may need some amending to be workable but has a lot of potential.  I did not make a shrinkage bar for this clay.

 

Big Creek 175 washout 2

Big Creek/175 Wash Out Clay

GPS: 38.857517, -122.722183

This is a very fine but slightly sandy clay found in the banks of Big Creek as it intersects CA Highway 175 less than a mile from Cobb Mountain Arts & Ecology Project. Because it is from active alluvial deposits its reliably is questionable.  It begins to become vitrified around cone 6 and starts sticking to the shelf at cone 8. By cone 10 the clay has become glossy and is more actively fluxing. This was not tested for shrinkage.

 

Bottle Rock DARK BROWN CLAY

Bottle Rock Road Dark Brown Clay (mile marker 3.6 East Side of road)

GPS: 38.899102, -122.790808

A very sticky dark chocolate brown when raw and full of obsidian inclusions from the east side of the pull out at Bottle Rock road near mile marker 3.60. In tests the clay started vitrifying after cone 6 and started sticking to the shelf/trays around cone 8 although this might have been due to the melting of the pervasive obsidian inclusions common to clays from this source. This clay was not tested for shrinkage.

 

Bottle Rock LIGHT BROWN CLAY

Bottle Rock Road Light Brown Clay (West side of road near mile marker 3.60)

GPS: 38.898739, -122.791109

This is a very sticky clay very similar to the dark brown clay. It is slightly lighter in color when raw but fires to the same statistics as the dark brown.  It is undoubtedly the same vein of material as the previous clay although it may be easier to source as it is more readily available at the surface. It still has quite a bit of obsidian in it and would need to be screened. No shrinkage information is available for this clay.

 

Bottle Rock MM3.6 clay

Bottle Rock Road Clay 1

GPS: 38.898559, -122.791181

This clay comes from a feeder creek that runs parallel to the west side of Bottle Rock road and empties into the source for the dark and light brown clays previously mentioned. Although it fires to a much lower temperature it is much cleaner and has much less obsidian in it. It vitrifies around cone 3-4 and bloats and melts after cone 5. It would make a nice clay body for anyone working at cone 2-3 and with some amendments could certainly be useful at cone 5. The source is easily dug and just off the road. No shrinkage tests were done for this clay.

 

BOTTLE ROCK NORTH WHITE INCLUSUION CLAY MM3.6

Bottle Rock Road White Inclusion Clay (mile marker 3.60)

GPS: 38.899108, -122.791128

This very white, sticky, and plastic clay is found in small inclusion in the sandy obsidian riddled cliff at the mm 3.60 pull out on Bottle Rock road. It is a very sandy but very nice clay but does not come in any great quantity and using it as a source material may add to cliff deterioration. It begins to vitrify at cone 8 and is nice even up to cone 10. No shrinkage data was collected for this clay.

 

BOTTLE ROCK NORTH YELLOW CLAY MM1.9 CLAYU

Bottle Rock Road North (mile marker 1.9)

GPS: 38.920129, -122.804331

This is a very nice, smooth, fine clay from just north of the previous Bottle Rock samples. It is on the west side of Bottle Rock road and just before another sandy white exposure. The clay is underneath a grassy outcropping and is a yellowish tan color when raw. With a little testing and work it would be a good low to midrange clay. Although the test samples we took were relatively free of any obsidian inclusions it might need a little bit of screening to insure that all debris is removed. This clay seems to loose its porosoty around cone 4-5 and by cone 6 it is starting to bloat and become brittle. All samples fired to cone 8 & 10 were unidentifiable puddles. so it might work well as a glaze component.

Shrinkage: Cone 01: 5%, Cone 2: 10%, Cone 4: 11.5%, Cone 6: 9% (at cone 6 it starts bloating and expanding.)

 

GLENBROOK CLAY

Glenbrook Clay

GPS: 38.852581, -122.757539

This is another clay from Bottle Rock Rd here in the Cobb area. Its less than 3 miles from the Cobb Mountain Arts & Ecology Project and accessible from a road cut. The Glenbrook clay is on the east side of Bottle Rock near the Glenbrook intersection. It fires very similarly to the previous Bottle Rock sample from mile marker 1.9 but is slightly redder and melts at a lower temperature. It has a very nice and slightly sandy quality and would be nice for working with in the cone 1-2 temperature range. It was porous in tests up to cone 4 and then bloated and slumped but cone 6. So it is a very open clay body that could use some amendments if one wanted to use it in their work. The cone 8-10 tiles melted completely and might be suitable as glaze components for those working at that temperature.

Shrinkage: Cone 01: 5%, Cone 2: 6%, Cone 4: 6%, Cone 6:8%

 

RUNNING TRAIL CLAY 1

Running Trail Clay 1

GPS:  38.857720, -122.731303

The Running Trail Clay is from a property that abuts the Cobb Mountain property to the south and may be part of the parent material for the Big Creek Clay. This clay is pretty irregular in particle size and has a 10-12% shrinkage rate. Although it holds together quite well up to cone 6 it does crack quite a bit making it impractical for functional items but potentially useful for sculptural use. In these tests the clay had completely vitrified by cone 6 and started sticking to the test trays by cone 8. It may need some kaolin additions to make it a workable cone 10 clay.

Shrinkage: Cone 01: 10%, Cone 2: 12%, Cone 4: 12%, Cone 6: 10%, shrinkage bars warped and were unreadable beyond cone 6.

 

SOUTH SIDE PARADY CLAY 1

South Side Parady Property Clay 1

GPS: 38.859771, -122.727677

This is a extremely thixotropic clay from the south most side of the Cobb Mountain property. It would need to be blended with a more utilitarian clay to make it it workable but might provide a source of clay to use for amending shorter, lower firing clays. It has some inclusions in it and would need to bee screened before use. It seems to be relitively refractory as far as clays in this area go and only starts to vitrify at cone 8. It has a relitively low shrinkage rate coming in under 10% up to cone 8.

Shrinkage: Cone 01: 7.5%, Cone 2: 8%, Cone 4: 8%, Cone 6: 9.3%, Cone 8: 9.5%

 

SOUTH SIDE PARADY CLAY 2

South Side Parady Clay 2

GPS: 38.859771, -122.727677

This is a clean (obsidian free) but slightly short clay just a few meters away from the previous sample. It is exposed in a road cut along the firebreak that defines the south side of the property. It has a slightly higher shrinkage rate than the previous sample but is much more workable. This clay starts vitrifying at cone 6 and is vitreous by cone 8. Both this sample and the prior are slightly less accessible and would require bagging and a hike up a steep hill to access.

Shrinkage: Cone 01: 10%, Cone 2: 11%, Cone 4: 11%, Cone 6: 12%, Cone 8: 12%, Cone 10: 12.5%

Well that is all the clays I have tested from the area thus far. I hope you enjoyed the results.

I am editing a few images. Mostly of work from my firing last week. Here are a few images of pieces that are in my show at Willits Center for the Arts.

 

Here is a small sampling of work from the last firing. I dont have a good photo set up here yet and am making due in the gallery so there are lots of shadows. Enjoy!

 

I was finally able to get a soda firing in after I got back from Texas from the holidays. I made a few changes to the bag wall before I loaded. In previous firings the heat was not being pulled through the kiln evenly so I loosened up the bag wall to help with this distribution. The previous two firings had been with other people and this was the first time I had the kiln all to myself. On the first firing we had green work in the kiln and fired until 2000° F solely with wood and then hooked up and turned on the burner system. The second firing I shared with Scott Parady who put green work in again so we had to go slow but only used gas. No kiln logs were kept for either of these firings unfortunately. This firing I fired cold with no preheat as I bisque all of my work and wasn’t firing anything of a large scale. I let the kiln warm with one burner on low for the first half hour and then slowly started adding wood. I continued adding wood consistently until around 1500° F and had turned on all three burners within the first hour and a half. Although I continued to add wood sporadically through out the day the wood seemed to be more of a hindrance than a help in gaining temperature. I added a little more soda than I had in the previous firing as well as a small amount of salt. The last firing was overly dry. I had cut the amount of soda from 3 lbs to 2 lbs in firings 1 & 2 but went back to 3 lbs sprayed in near the end of the firing as well as about a cup or so of salt which I spread on a log that I stoked. I am pleased with the amount of surface I got through out the kiln, although it was a little dry near the stoke door where I was spraying.

This firing was 5-6 hours shorter than the previous two firings, had no preheat, and was more even temperature  and atmosphere wise throughout the ware chamber. I would like to have used more wood to get more ash effect but I am happy with the outcome overall.

Here is the kiln log if you want to look at it:

sodafiring11216cobbmountainartecologyproject

img_5418

First Firing of the Cobb Mtn Art & Ecology Wood/Gas Soda Kiln Designed by HP Bloomer & Scott Parady

Back in October I designed a soda kiln for Cobb Mtn Art & Ecology Project with Scott Parady. We had a limited amount of space and needed to tie into the stack that already existed for the train kiln, as well as keep the kiln as versatile as possible. Initially Scott wanted to have the kiln exclusively gas fired, but we eventually decided to make it a hybrid that could do both gas and wood but did not need one exclusively over the other.  We have fired the kiln twice so far and are still making adjustments to the bag wall in order to create a more even distribution of heat from top to bottom. The design was initially to be a catenary arch, but as I got into drawing up the plans we realized that the space would be greatly limited by having a completely catenary arch. This is why the flue side of the arch is a barrel arch and the firebox side is a catenary. Choosing to do this was quite an adventure for me, especially since we were building completely with straight bricks and did not have any arch bricks.

I decided on a cross draft and down draft hybrid based on personal experiences I have had with both types of kilns. The cross draft style of kiln gives great directional effects but frequently is inefficient in fuel use and has cold spots. Having cold spots in a kiln means that there are points where the flame is not heating efficiently. To resolve this you either have to over-fire the rest of the work or sustain a peak temperature for longer in order to let the heat “soak” in these areas which can also be equivalent to over-firing the rest of the kiln. By dropping the flue below the ware chamber the flame is drawn down and through the wares, and so the flame heats the ware chamber more efficiently.   Since we have no natural gas lines in this area and have to run off of propane, which is more expensive, it seemed to make sense to have a more efficient type of kiln that gave the option of being woodfired or gas fired.

Overall this is proving to be a great little kiln that can be filled fairly quickly. Firings have also proven to be less expensive than I had initially thought they might be. My previous experiences with propane to cone 10 have cost $180-200 per firing. We started the first firing without the gas and fired up to bisque temperature solely with wood. This didn’t seem to use too much wood and took us about 16 hours to get to ~2075° at the top of the arch. We turned on the gas around midnight and took it up to 2400° in three hours.  The last firing I shared with Scott before our Studio Open House and Sale in November was only propane fueled and used only $148 in propane. I think that we can speed the firing up when firing only bisqued work. I am gradually opening up the bag wall so that the kiln fires more evenly top to bottom, and am waiting for the shelves that this kiln was designed for. It was designed to use the standard 12″ x 24″ silicon carbide shelf instead of the shelves that we are currently using.

Fun things we did with this kiln that were new to me:

  • King brick as grate system. Used 13.5″ King brick as the grate instead of steel bars. We did this because we already had the brick and did not want to have to buy steel bars which would more quickly erode when exposed to the soda in the kiln.
  • Complex arch. This was done to give more usable loading space for work.
  • No arch brick. The arch was also built, as mentioned above, with no arch brick. This means that all bricks are straight and not keyed. All adjustments to the curvature were done with mortar.
  • Doglegged flue. The flue is at a 45 degrees to the kiln and the stack. This was because we needed to move the kiln over so that it would not block a spy on the train kiln and to give us more space in the kiln area.
  • Burner Manifold. We included a manifold between the propane line and the burners. We did this to equalize pressure so all burners received a equal amount of fuel.
  • Excavated firebox. Because we were tying in to a preexisting kiln our flue level was already at a fixed position. This meant that we had to excavate the firebox to have it be at the appropriate height. That is why we have a bricked-in clean-out pit in front of the kiln. Normally potters get around this by having the kiln elevated on cinder blocks and building individual chimneys for each kiln but this requires a great number of bricks and space. Tying two kilns together can limit firings to one at a time but can save a lot of space an bricks.

If I were to build this kiln again:

  • If I were to build this design again with more time and resources I would include more primary airs for the coal bed and firebox.
  • I would take more time to build a more complex floor that further recessed a channel for the flue into the floor.
  • I would like to make the firebox a little wider with a deeper recess for the coal bed.
  • I would give more space for a shelf to slide in behind the kiln and close it off. This is not something I want to allocate a pristine new shelf to, and older shelves have a tendency have a curve or accumulation on them that need to be accommodated with a slightly wider slot.
  • I like catenary arches for larger kilns and even more so when the arch is perpendicular to the stack. If I were to build this kiln again I would go with a sprung arch or a barrel arch to accommodate more room for work, the firebox, and the stoke hole. Building these types of kilns requires more steel for a frame to brace the arch.