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michigan mud conference report

updated thu 13 oct 05


Bonnie Staffel on wed 12 oct 05

Dear Clayarters,

I was recently a presenter at the Michigan Mud Conference held at the
Albion College by the Michigan Clay Art Association October 7 and 8. I
want to commend the organizers of the event from the presenter's point
of view which proceeded smooth as silk. I was given all the support
that I needed to demonstrate my smoke and trash can firing processes.
Volunteers were everywhere. Tops on that list was a couple, Shirley and
Dave Kaemming, that I had met many years ago when we were booth
neighbors at a small Christmas Bazaar in Toledo in my early days as a
potter and were collectors of my work. So with that connection we went
through the three days reminiscing, eating together, being taken to the
demo sites as friends. Others arranged my flight schedule, received my
exhibition pots as well as the demo pots and checking to see if I had
any other needs.

The audience consisted of potters of all levels, and art teachers eager
to learn a new technique to interest their students in the art of clay.
I got a kick out of my little trash can firing demo in the shadow of a
huge Anagama kiln built by Ken Shenstone. I believe in urging the
potter to experiment and try whatever comes to mind. One soon finds out
what works and what doesn't. This was stressed by the fact that two
kinds of kindling was offered. I just said, let's try both. The
results were discussed on Saturday morning after the pots cooled.
Judgments and decisions are made every day by potters in the way they
work. I have been doing workshops demonstrating the use of a garbage
can to get exciting effects of copper reduction in one's back yard.
Many potters do not have the luxury of having an Anagama kiln available
or even the ability to dig a pit for pit firing as the earth is either
rocky or the soil depth very thin. Very interesting patterns emerge
through the use of chemicals and the kind of wood used. I also show the
use of the lid as a damper during the firing.

Other firing containers were discussed including the use of a Webber
Grille instead of a garbage can and how to get color in a smoke firing.
The audience asked some great questions that kept the demo very lively
and they seemed to get "all fired up."

When I asked about the weather for the weekend, Jim Spevak, MCAA
representative and all around guy for information, suggested that I
bring a winter coat. Egad, it was just early October. I was glad I
packed it as the Friday night BBQ dinner held at the Anagama site was
bitter cold. The conference wound up with a spectacular fire display in
a beautiful firebrick sculpture constructed by Shenstone, Thornton and

Linda Christianson was the featured presenter along with other fine
sculptors and potters. My schedule did not permit me to attend any of
the others but the exhibit of their works was beautifully displayed in
the large gallery curated by Lynne Chytilo, Conference Coordinator.

The MCAA is alive and well. Their conference is offered every two years
at different colleges in the state. This year's presenters included:
Todd Wozniak, ceramic sculpture
IB Remsen, throwing
John Leyland, large sculpture
Tom Kendall, single fired porcelain
Daleene Menning, murals
Colleen Toledano, mold making techniques
Steve Hansen, childhood memories shown in clay
Marie Woo, water reduction
Hoon Lee, installation and performance art
Jeff Cline, throwing big pots
Mary Humphrey, raku
Duane Bastian, images in nature
Carrie Anne Parks, tea and clay
Ken Shenstone, Anagama kiln tour

It was great to reconnect with old friends from my Toledo/lower Michigan
stamping grounds. This conference is one not to be missed in 2007.

Warm regards from Northern Michigan where it has turned cold and dark,
definitely fall weather.

Bonnie Staffel