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Shawn Ireland

After 20 years, I still make pots with food, flowers and candles in mind. I choose to make these pots with a foundation in folk tradition. For me, this involves using a variety of hand processed local clays and glaze materials, single firing in a wood burning kiln, and using a kick wheel. These ingredients promote surprises and keep my craft connected to the natural world.
My pots continue to change over time under the influence of pottery making traditions adopted from my teachers Will Ruggles and Douglass Rankin. Several trips to Italy have inspired a figurative direction in the form of candlesticks, vases and bowls which I call Animalware. I work quickly and playfully with the clay, searching for a solidity of form both functional and sculptural. Currently I’m trying to “unlearn”.
The clay I mix by hand is a blend of ingredients from North Carolina and Georgia. Thirty percent of the body is local red clay. The nontoxic glazes, which melt at 2300 degrees, are composed primarily of local feldspar, silica, red clay, kaolin and ash from my woodstove.
I fire in a two chambered, 130 cu ft kiln fueled with poplar, oak and maple strips which are salvaged from burn piles at a nearby sawmill. The pots are raw glazed and single fired for 18-20 hours. The combination of wood flame and ash, which melts into the clay and glaze, can produce colors and surfaces reminiscent of objects found in nature. Like these objects, wood fired pots can look similar to each other but never identical. This unpredictability makes every kiln load a new start.