Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ken Shipley Jar at Arrowmont

I have wanted to write a little about my experience at the symposium at Arrowmont, but have been spending a lot of time recovering and refocusing. Now that it is Wednesday evening and I had a spare moment from a busy day of catch up, I wanted to start with this piece. It is a wood fired jar by Ken Shipley located in my room at the Staff House. I shared the suite with my old pal Mark Shapiro. When I walked into the room, I spotted it right away. To borrow a phrase from Kim Ellington, I could have spotted it from 55 mph. I knew Ken Shipley at the University of TN Knoxville. Ken was a graduate student and was my very first teacher at UT when I took that fateful night class in 1983 that started it all. Although I seem to remember that Ken had to pass the baton at some point during that summer class, I got to know him after I become a real student in the pot shop. I was pretty new to pot shop and to the salt kiln and the anagama and helped out at a couple of firings along with Ken's firing buddy, Pat Houston. Ken made a lot of these jars, some of them pretty massive. I remember going into his studio and smelling the clay that Ken had stored in big garbage cans. It had a peculiar odor of sour beer and who knows what else. Of course everything about his studio had some sort of intrigue. Ken inspired me to try to make big pots and use the anagama in my later undergrad years.
Enough nostalgia, let's get back to this jar. I took a good look at it and noticed some beautiful subtle colors that are somewhat noticeable from this picture that I took with my cell phone. I'm not sure whether the patterns are solely from the flame. I seem to remember Ken wrapping pots with straw soaked in salt, but it's been a really long time. It's a real beauty. It was the next best thing to seeing Ken who I haven't seen in some years. He now teaches at Austin Peay State University in my hometown of Clarksville, TN. Here is Ken's web site if you want to see what he's been doing lately.



















Here are a couple of old pictures I retrieved from the vaults showing the firebox of the former UTK anagama built* in 1981(?) by Shiro Otani at the Melrose Ave studio. On the right is a picture of the kiln and that's Peter Rose chopping wood. (I can't remember if I have already published these pictures in another post.) Peter lives and makes pots in Knoxville to this day but hails from Australia. After Kenny graduated and moved on Peter came around, (thank God!) and helped all of us Art students fire the kiln. We were pretty much clueless. I had helped Kenny fire a couple of his kiln loads, but really hadn't fired by myself. So, I owe a lot to Ken and Peter!

All these memories (and I could go on, but I'll spare ya for now) from a jar.

*UPDATE:
The kiln was actually built by Ken Shipley, Stephen Frazier, Patrick Houston, and others after the kiln built at Arrowmont built by Otani.