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The Gearboat Chronicles

Cracking open the kiln

I have seen a clay wolf with roses in its jaw. Check that off the list. My eyes also recently beheld a ceramic cheese platter festooned with shriveled up skeletal rodents appearing to crawl toward where the cheese should be. That one kind of freaked me out, truth be told.

And more. Much more. Dozens of dozens of works of art were pulled last week from the woodfired kiln up at the LH Project on the outer skirts of Joseph.

It’s easy to build one of these toadagama kilns. You just make a giant raised tunnel in your yard out of a few thousand firebricks or so, then get yourself maybe a hundred cords of wood and burn that for about a week, stoking the thing around the clock to maintain the temperature at the better part of a thousand degrees. Then let it cool. Crack er open and see what you got.

Resins and whatnots in the wood lend their colors to the clay en route to the chimney. The resulting finish has a very . . . ‘earthy’ look, if you will. And you will.

Paul, Penny and I went up to investigate all this kiln activity to check in on our friends at LH, including Morgan. We hadn’t seen much of Mr. Jenkins lately, but did get occasional cryptic messages mentioning his newfound interest in ceramics. She seems very nice, by the way.

There were many artists who loaded their work inside this inferno kiln, and it was entertaining to see what pottery emerged and guess who made it based on the style.

I was showing Paul a collection of pinchpot ashtrays and clay garter snakes, saying how nice it was that the local kindergarten class had put their projects in with the professional potters, when somebody set another pinchpot down and said, “Here’s more of Morgan’s work. . . .”

Which I think is great. I don’t know any other river guide who would volunteer in the off season to help preschoolers by sneaking their art into a kiln by pretending he’d made it himself. Well done, Morgan.

I fell in love with sort of an elliptical clay tube basket . . . I don’t what to call it, but I like it. A lot. I need to discover the creator of that pottery shard and commission one of my very own. It sang to me, if you know what I mean. And I want one of Morgan’s clay garter snakes too. He does have a talent for those.

Come to think of it, I’m also very fond of the masks made by Todd. If you’re a member of Winding Waters Nation, you’ve probably met Todd. He helps us a good deal when we can pry him away from the clay ranch. His masks don’t just follow you across the room, they’ve been following me around after I got out of visual contact. Now that’s artwork.

It really was quite inspiring, seeing all that creative juice hardened after a week in the hot box. Makes a guy want to break out the art supplies. And I’m going to, by gum. Spring is bringing on all sorts of flow. Art. Rivers. Sunshine. Green growths. Things are happening.