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wonderful wisner workshop

updated fri 20 aug 99


Kurt Wild on thu 19 aug 99

The Michael Wisner pueblo and Mata Ortiz potery workshopI went to held
at the Colorado Rocky Mountain School last week (Aug. 9-13, 1999)was
just GREAT! The clay workshop was part of the "Valley Folk Arts program
which provides adult classes in traditional folk arts in the folk school
tradition of fellowship and creativity." I went with minimal
expectations although I did want to learn about burnishing graphite
onto pots for blackware firing. If I had gone with specific
expectations I'm certain they would have been fullfilled far beyond what
I would have anticipated. We hand-built pots using pueblo indian and
Mata Ortiz techniques out of commercial clays as well as clays Michael
had brought with him from Mexico. Michael has been to Mata Ortiz, Mexico
almost every year for the past 10 years. When he goes he always stays a
few weeks to a month and lives with the Juan Quezada family. Having been
a teacher for 35 years and having seen many teachers and teaching styles
I can attest to the excellence of Michael as a teacher. He really knows
his "stuff", presents it clearly and is a most likeable and pleasant
person. He treats everyone, regardless of age or experience with
respect. I would recommend his workshops to anyone, experienced or
not.. After basic forming of our pots we scraped them with a hacksaw
blade into a more refined shape and sanded them after they were allowed
to dry. Bone dry sanded pots were then treated with oil and water
applications before rubbing with panty hose for a satin finish or
burnished to a high gloss with a stone, metal or glass rod. In some
instances the pieces were treated with a graphite mixture in order to
achieve a super shine. Michael provided lots of valuable information on
the preparation of the paint for polychrome as well as for blackware.
We, six of us in the class, all made brushes out of human hair and then
proceeded to try and learn how to use this unique tool. The clay studio
was never locked and evenings were usually spent working on pots.
Friday, the last day of class, pots were fired either in an electric,
gas or woodfired 55 gallon drum style kiln. We were all very pleased
with our results and marveled at how much we learned and how successful
we were.

Twice during the week Michael showed slides of Mata Ortiz pots as well
as his own and there were also slides of firing setups and firing.
Michael has a fine web site worth viewing at

If you wish to contact him with questions or information about his
workshops his email address is

CRMS (Colorado Rocky Mountain School) is located in Carbondale. It is a
private boarding high school with some day students but during the
summer the school facilities are used for the Valley Folk Arts Program.
During the week the clay class was held other classes were also held in
jewelry, quilting, color theory, traditional patchwork and blacksmithing
just to name a few. Further information about any aspects of this or
next year's programs can be gotten by writing to Adele Hause
or you can visit their web site at

Kurt Wild
1000 E. Cascade Ave.
River Falls, WI 54022
Phone: 715-425-5715
web site: