The Art School at Old Church pottery show the first weekend of December is one I await with tremendous anticipation. Pottery afficionados within driving distance of Demarest, New Jersey come to see this show because a good number of the best makers in the pottery world come sell their work here.
Sometimes a special piece calls to me. That's what happened on Sunday. I bought a vessel by Jack Troy.
Mr. Troy has been a maker and teacher for many years. He is also a writer of both prose and poetry. This vessel drew me in because of its round fullness and color, first, and then by its great visual warmth. Although I don't know Jack Troy personally, I understood by the deceptively casual beauty of the piece and the expertise required to make something so light and fair from earth and fire, that it was a labor of love and a wealth of knowledge that brought the vessel into existence.
The interaction of this piece with fire is told as a narrative as one turns the vessel and looks at every side.
Mr. Troy knows by experience where the placement of each vessel will either expose it to the flow of flame and ash, or block them. Long acquaintance with his porcelain and familiarity with the qualities of his kiln and the qualities inherent in kinds of wood, allow him to make highly educated guesses as to what will happen inside the wood kiln.
There is always serendipity in what happens inside a wood kiln.
Wood firings require a special kiln, room on a property, and a permit from the town where one lives. The storage of wood, the repeated stoking sometimes over the course of 72 hours, and the sheer physical labor are not even the whole story. The heart of the firing is expertise that comes from guidance from pros and lots of experience. Dedication and love for wood firing on the part of the potter are all "musts". In addition, each wood kiln has its hotter and cooler spots. Each can be learned and then manipulated to direct the path of flame and ash in a certain way onto and around the clay pieces in the kiln, but even so there are always unexpected variables, some unwelcome and some brilliant. Each type of wood burns to ash that has its own chemical composition, which affects the resulting color and finish on the pots. Mr. Troy's vessel here is porcelain, and yet all porcelain pots do not necessarily have the same mineral composition and thus possibly not even the exact melting point, depending where it was mined and what percentages of mineral components there are in it. So results of different porcelains in different kilns are more knowledge to be gained... In short, not just Jack Troy, but the maker who creates vessels that succeed as this one does, has worked his butt off, learned, learned, learned and gloried in it, and he or she is one in a million.
As is this vessel.