Larry Kruzan of
Lost Creek Pottery gives us a review of
Steven Hill workshop he recently attended.
I just got home from Steven Hill's new workshop "Electric vs.
Gas Firing". WOW! I have been a fan of Steven's work since I
became interested in Clay
and have always enjoyed watching him throw and speak at INCECA.
Having the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time
with him in his studio
proved to be even better.
A few months ago I began to hear of
this new series of workshops and experiments Steven was doing with a
Skutt electric kiln, that somehow he was
achieving his wonderful reduction surfaces in an electric kiln
without reduction of any kind. If you get CM you've see the Skutt
ads like I had. I
frankly thought it was going to be about achieving a reduction
atmosphere in a electric kiln - I was wrong.
As the first of four sessions opened,
Steven began to explain, in his soft spoken style, how he had really
never had too much use for electric kilns,
always associating them with shiny, glitzy glazes - certainly not
the smooth semi-matt finishes he had pursued for years, what he
called "baby bottom
smooth" surfaces covered with micro crystals. Always expecting the
"low fire look" from them.
Then around Christmas he received a
Skutt KM-1027 and with it's computer controller he achieved pots
that were superficially indistinguishable from
his reduction pots in an oxidation atmosphere. They had the same
micro crystalline finish. They had that "Baby Bottom smooth" feel,
and apart from
very slight differences in clay color there was not any great
visible difference between the two firings.
I have done a lot of reduction firing
in my time with clay, with my gas kiln and others, and with three
electric kilns in my studio I sure know what to
expect from an electric kiln - or at least I used to know. After
learning the basics of Steven's glaze spraying methods we glazed the
pots we brought
with us, all the time looking for the catch. Just how were we going
to to get reduction? Loading part of our pots into the electric kiln
and part into
the gas kiln we were going to see what happened to our very own pots
fired in traditional methods - reduction or oxidation - a few of
As the kilns were fired we continued
to enjoy the great hospitality of Kim and Steven at "Center Street
Clay" along with a total submersion into four
days of total clay, other potters sharing, fantastic food, fun and
camaraderie. Did I mention the food? Nobody lost weight at this one!
On the last day the kilns were
unloaded and the ware compared. As I sat my pots side by side,
oxidation and reduction, I have to say that I could not
see any difference until I turned them over and looked at the clay
foot for the tail-tell difference. Sure enough, the reduction foot
was darker but the
surface had the very same micro crystalline growth on each example,
each was "baby bottom smooth" where I had the glaze thick enough. I
had never sprayed
a lot of glazes before this workshop but with the experience I
gained here I will be spraying a lot more of my ware.
As we neared the end of the workshop
Steven critiqued our efforts as we discussed each others work, all
of which was quite varied. From wonderful
thimble size pots to a huge thrown pot. Hand-built or thrown, carved
or smooth there were representative examples of almost every common
In the end I am personally conflicted
about how to proceed from here - I see the great results I achieved
and how I can incorporate these techniques into
my own work - but how to make them my own, that is my challenge.
When I expressed this to Steven he just smiled and told me that that
was what his
"Journey Workshop" was all about.
Get more information on Steven Hillís
workshops by going to