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  Workshops



Electric vs. Gas Firing: What's all the Fuss About, Anyway?
Review of a Steven Hill Workshop by Larry Kruzan
 

 

Larry Kruzan of Lost Creek Pottery gives us a review of the 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 each.

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! Kim can
cook!

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 form or
construction technique.

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 http://centerstreetclay.com/Site/2009_Workshops.html