Wednesday, January 16, 2008

up from the ashes

no pun intended. Okay, maybe.

Here's an old interview we did with Ben Krupka for a woodfired pottery show we did back in 2003. Many of the things he said apply to other artists - heck, they apply to us too. Enjoy.

Interview with Ben Krupka

LBG: What led you to work with a woodfired kiln?

Ben: I began woodfiring because of the forms that I was making. I look for a softness and voluptuousness in my pots. My work tends to have soft curves and flowing lines and lends itself to the atmosphere in a woodfired kiln. The type of kiln I use is a train or coffin style kiln where the draft and flow of the flame travels across the kiln - a "cross-draft kiln". This accentuates the curves and shoulders of pots. In most gas kilns and electric kilns the path of the flame doesn't accentuate pots, it is used as a source of heat to melt glazes. The wood kiln does that, but it also naturally glazes my work, highlighting the areas that need highlighting. So woodfiring for me started as an experiment, and grew to a very controlled process where the type of wood I use, the clay I use, and the way the pots are set in the kiln highly influence what they will look like when they are finished. Some chalk woodfiring up to the kiln Gods and feel that the effects you get from a wood kiln are always a mystery. The truth is that it is a process in which the flame is directed by the loader of the kiln. So I don't exactly know what is going to happen every time, but I do what I can to promote particular things to take place. Basically, woodfiring is a way of glazing that works directly in conjunction with the forms that I am making. It is a rawness that shows the clay in a naked type of state that can't be produced in any other way.

LBG: Do you use handmade pottery in your home? Why would it be preferable to use something handmade?

Ben: Yes, I only use handmade pottery. The work I use is by other potters and friends as well as myself. Each piece has its own personality, just like people. It makes beverages better when housed in a handmade cup or mug. It is a way of bringing art into daily life. Really, if you think about it, there aren't many things we put to our lips. We use them to kiss and things like that, which make our lips a very sensual part of us. So I guess you have to treat them well. Why take such a sensual object and put a styrofoam cup or paper cup to them?

LBG: What is your favorite thing about what you do?

Ben: I love to see a group of people using a large platter or serving dish that I made full of food on the table. It completes the entire process.

LBG: Is there an evolution process in your work, and if so, what is your goal for the future?

Ben: My work is constantly evolving. The forms I make change, based on what it is that I need or want to embellish or highlight as a ritual in my life. Some things, like a cup, might look the same to a viewer over a period of a year or so, but there are subtle things different about the cup I made today compared to the cup I made 2 weeks ago. The rim or foot may have changed a bit, or the way the line moves around the cup may also be a bit different. The way I work with the wood kiln is always changing. Different techniques for loading, firing, cooling, etc. are also always changing because each time you fire you learn something you didn't know before. Also, just when you think you have figured something out, there will be an unexplained phenomenon and you're back to square one. Challenging myself with what I make, how I fire, and how I see things is what fuels me to continue making work.


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