Today we have a video of a potter in his studio, but with a twist. Daniel Johnston fires pots in his kiln in Seagrove, North Carolina. A few key details set this studio footage apart from ones we’ve shown on CFile in the past. For starters, Johnston insists on digging his own materials.
I use local clay to make all of my pots. The refining process is labor intensive but the simplicity of mining clay and transforming it into useful and beautiful objects is greatly rewarding and fulfilling on many levels. The local clay culturally offers a connection to the many potters that dug clay in the Seagrove area before me. The variation and inconsistency of minimally refined clay gives a richness and beauty to the pots.
Johnston takes part in what he calls the “large pot culture” in North Carolina. The project came from his time living in the pottery village of Phon Bok in Northeast Thailand. There, he worked with Thai potters who made jars on a massive scale. Johnston realized there wasn’t an example of that kind of work in the USA, so he brought the technique home with him, producing as many as 100 jars in three months. Through his work, Johnston intends to show how large pots can be produced in North Carolina using a South East Asian model. Producing large jars is physically and mentally taxing, he said, but the project allows him to observe the evolution of his technique. We get a taste of this in the video above where we see an eagle-eyed Johnston scrutinizing a jar as it spins.
On average, each jar is made from more than 100 pounds of clay and holds between 35 to 40 gallons.
The glaze Johnston uses is a combination of wood ash from his stove, a local red earthenware clay and a local stoneware clay. He said this mix has stood the test of time for several thousand years. He experiments with this ancient recipe in different proportions, creating the amazing glaze work you see in the video.
Check back later this week for more about this Carolinian talent.
Video by Nick Matisse and produced by Chris Gallaway.
Do you love or loathe these contemporary ceramics? Let us know in the comments.