Kurt Wild on fri 8 nov 02
The potential shortage of fuel was mentioned to me on my very first of
three trips to Mata Ortiz. At that time, I suggested the possibility of
firing with propane in a portable fiber raku style kiln. This idea
occurred to me after seeing LP gas being used by a number of potters in
their homes. My guide at the time, put down the idea because he felt that
would destroy the uniqueness of Mata Ortiz primitive style firing. My
argument was that it was the Mata Ortiz pots that were so wonderful and
significant far more than the firing method. Many purchasers of Mata
Ortiz pots couldn't care less how they were fired and they are primarily
interested in the beauty of the pots themselves.
Beyond that, I noticed that there was ash residue under and around two pots
upon seeing one potter remove the protective drum over the fired pots. The
major consumption of fuel was for the fire which surrounded the drum. The
blackness I assumed came from a sheet of paper under the pots - a technique
not far removed from some raku post firing smoking. So why not replace the
cottonwood bark and manure with gas?
In addition to the above, I witnessed a Michael Wisner firing in a gas
kiln which utilized only a small amount of wood shavings . Technology is
finding it's way to Mata Ortiz already such as the program to put computers
in the school and some of the potters have satellite dishes and TV - why
not gas kilns. Many of the firings do not involve reduction so why use a
primitive technique when other methods are possible?
A final comment, on one visit we noticed some materials that strongly
resembled underglaze colors - could someone be secretly bringing in those
materials and not saying anything about them in order to make the
achievement of certain colors in primitive firing seem far more exotic?
It's the pots - not the firing that seems to me to be significant
here. Isn't it possible that on some workshop trip to the US that Juan or
the Dominguez's may be introduced to firing with gas and take back the idea
to Mata Ortiz? What's wrong with that?
Bruce Girrell on fri 8 nov 02
Kurt Wild wrote:
> ...I suggested the possibility of
> firing with propane in a portable fiber raku style kiln.
I think that this would work. I think that the main issue would be keeping
the technology (as in refractory fiber, for example) to a minimum. It is
essential that everything be repairable with close to zero technology.
> This idea
> occurred to me after seeing LP gas being used by a number of potters in
> their homes. My guide at the time, put down the idea because he felt that
> would destroy the uniqueness of Mata Ortiz primitive style firing.
Then your guide might want to have a talk with the potters who are producing
their black pots with graphite and photocopier toner.
> My argument was that it was the Mata Ortiz pots that were so wonderful and
> significant far more than the firing method.
You can say that again. The firing accounts for about 20 minutes of all of
the work that goes into any one of those pots. It is almost a footnote. In
fact, they might even get better results with gas. I noticed that some of
the white pots show signs of blackening from the fire. In some cases they
refire the pots to remove the fire marks. Using gas they would probably get
a whiter pot the first time. I would guess that the reds might be brighter
> The blackness I assumed came from a sheet of paper under the pots
I didn't see that. Juan uses a crushed cow pie to provide the reduction
> A final comment, on one visit we noticed some materials that strongly
> resembled underglaze colors
Yes, notably the blues and greens. Juan was rather upset by this. He remains
a purist and refuses to use purchased colorants. Other potters are
definitely using them. Although I don't have a problem with anyone using
whatever they think suits their art, I personally felt that the colors
looked out of place and made the pieces take on the look of the brightly
colored crap that they sell at gas stops along the interstates in the
southwest. Kind of the same reaction that you would have if you saw
mother-in-law blue on one of mel's shino pieces.
> Isn't it possible that on some workshop trip to the US that Juan or
> the Dominguez's may be introduced to firing with gas and take
> back the idea to Mata Ortiz?
Juan has been to the US, Japan, and many, many other places. I'm sure that
he has seen other fuels in use. He already knows how to control his firings
using dung. He would have to relearn how to control his firings using a new
fuel. Juan has always been an innovator. If the fuel shortage is really bad,
he'll most likely try something else. But chances are he'll probably figure
out a way to do it using the tank of propane, a garden hose, and the tail
pipe of a '59 pickup.
Bruce "wish I were there right now" Girrell