Flower and Ash
In 2014, after retiring from a career that had nothing to do with clay, I returned to the particular form of expression that ceramics lends itself to. Mostly I electric fire but occasionally have the opportunity to get pieces into a wood-burning kiln. That year I was invited to join in the launch of a fantastic, huge, angama kiln, named Fushigigama (loosely “wonder kiln”), on the campus of the New Hampshire Institute of Art’s (NHIA) Sharon Art Center, in the backwoods of rural New Hampshire. (2020 update-the Center has closed and the NHIA is now the New England College Institute of Art and Design.)
I didn’t have a working studio at the time and made my pieces on a kitchen table, dried them on top of my washing machine, and glazed them on top of the dryer. I made a table piece called "Escape Box". It is porcelain and has only a bit of a shino glaze on the textured portion of the lid.
The firing produced a lovely earthy brownish area on the top and some swatches of beautiful black ash on the side, the interior of the bottom, and the exterior bottom.
The box is excavated in the middle with an escape hole in the bottom. The metaphor of the ability to escape, as well as to peer back into the confinement space is the essence of this piece.
The underside of the box reveals the ash of the wood burning, which could reach over 2300 degrees and takes about a week+ for the process, loading, firing, cooling, & unloading. That's not counting all the pre/post work -- getting/splitting/stacking wood/repairs, clean up of shelves/posts, and lots of other tasks that go into such a firing.
The lid was embellished with copper rings, a tiny gem, a gold bead, and some red micro dust glitter.
The underside of the lid was embellished with a red “flower” and a bit of the red glitter.
Turning the box over to look into the excavation through the escape hole reveals another dimension. The reference is metaphorical to hostage trauma - digging out from containment, walking through fire, and healing to enjoy the flowers again.
This little box became a favored piece. The rich experience of returning to clay work and enjoying the anagama firing, meeting experts, professionals, hobbyists, and students in the NH ceramics community, really supercharged me and instilled a motivation to “get on with it”, relative to art/creative expression, something that had been lacking in my life for too long.
The Escape Box became the inspiration for the logo for Lee U Ceramics. The logo is called Flower and Ash (yep, more metaphor).