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hoggama firing with merrie

updated thu 7 mar 02


vince pitelka on wed 6 mar 02

I reported last week that we were going to be firing our hoggama (groundhog
anagama hybrid) with Merrie Boerner. She came up from Mississippi for the
three-day firing (Monday through Thursday), drove back home to host a
gathering on Saturday, and drove all the way back up on Sunday for the
unloading. What a peach she is. Hard worker, always cheerful and
enthusiastic, just a pleasure to have around. Makes great pots too. The
firing was a complete success. Beautiful pots, everyone got some real gems.
Merrie had lots of beauties. We also saw a lot of video footage of the
construction of "Mother," Merrie's groundhog kiln, and wow, what a labor of
love. But she likes the ash effect and surface crystals we get in our kiln,
and is already talking about building another wood kiln. She is making her
place in the woodfiring world.
- Vince

Vince Pitelka
Appalachian Center for Crafts
Tennessee Technological University
1560 Craft Center Drive, Smithville TN 37166
Home -
Work -
615/597-6801 ext. 111, fax 615/597-6803

Merrie Boerner on wed 6 mar 02

In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined a more beautiful setting,
expansive ceramics department, knowledgeable teacher, enjoyable students,
and wonderful firing all wrapped up in the Appalachian Center for Crafts
package ! Thanks, Vince !
The smooth Tennessee highways lead me into the rocky foothills, and the
winding path around acres of water took me across a bridge to a most
impressive group of cabins and craft studios.
The variety of ages, backgrounds, and focus of the students gave me the
feeling that I fit right in. There were young people working on independent
studies, and more mature folks working on a second career... side by
side....respecting one another, learning from eachother, helping, laughing,
and working hard toward a common goal....should I say quest. And, what a
wonderful quest art and craft is ! One which may never be satisfied. Isn't
the challenge and enjoyment of the endeavor an amazing inspiration for hard
You all know how well Vince expresses himself on Clayart.....but, you
read his posts at your convenience. I must tell you that his timing for
instruction, critique, and praise are right on the button,.... something you
should experience in person during a workshop or maybe in the Clayart room
In the past, I have given clay talks to women's clubs, Girl Scouts,
etc......Vince encouraged me to give a slide show for his students. Well,
showing your growth progression of your passion in clay to a group of gifted
students could be quite inhibiting. As I clicked from slide to slide,
beginning with some of my first work, and continuing through the building of
my kiln and my evolution of forms, it was quite like removing articles of
clothing. At the end of the presentation, part of me that was very personal
had been totally exposed. The response from Vince and the students gave me
confidence, helping me to feel like I am heading in a good
exciting pursuit of an insatiable quest. What a satisfying feeling, to be
comfortable with your work !
As for the firing of the Hoggama......BEAUTIFUL ! I arrived at the
kiln site just as the students were loading the first few rows of wares.
Vince had printed out detailed goals for every 6 hours of the three day
firing. This was very helpful to those of us who had never fired this kiln
before, and, to tell the truth, some of us need limits or we get carried
away with increasing the heat early on in the firing.....(meaning ME)
My intention was to have a student ship my pots to me, because I had to go
home for a party at my house (which had been planned for a while). Well,
after working so hard with my new friends, and seeing their work, and the
flame, and the ash dripping on the pots in could I miss the
unloading !?!? Anyway, what is16 hours of driving as compared to two hours
of kiln unloading ecstasy !?! I'm so glad that I returned to see the pots,
ash, and pink/lavender clay and the smooth craters in my shino (which turned
white), and crystals all over the place and drips from the underside of the
silicon carbide many surprises ! So many beauties ! So much
to learn !
I've rested, now.....and getting on with the next project; my daughter's
June wedding.....but first NCECA ! I hope to meet many of you there.
One Satisfied Woodfiring Woman,