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Jim Gremel Ceramics

 

Jim Gremel - Artist’s Statement

 

In 1984 I ended a 17 year career in aerospace engineering to become a full-time potter. Almost from the first, I was drawn to combine classical pottery forms with exotic glazes or firing methods. At various times, I pit-fired, saggar-fired, raku-fired, sawdust-fired, low-fired and high-fired my work.

When I started, I thought I would be a functional potter, making plates and bowls for everyday use, but I always fussed more with the form or with the surface, or both, and ended up with pieces that weren’t suitable for tableware.

At first, I threw every piece on the wheel. The largest were 3 1/2 feet tall by 2 feet wide. Throwing was very natural to me; it was all I was interested in at first. But (seemingly) endless repetition, a sore back and a heightened interest in the surface of my work led me to slip casting.

Now I cast almost all of my pieces. I have developed many dozens (hundreds?) of glazes and think of my cast forms as blank canvases which I endeavor to bring to life with with my glazing and firing techniques.

Lusterware

Luster glazes contain metals which are deposited at, or near, the surface when the piece is fired, so as to create metallic, often iridescent, colors.

Reduction-Fired Lusters are the rarest and most beautiful form of luster. I fire them in a propane kiln with insufficient air to burn all of the fuel. The superheated fuel strips oxygen from everything in the kiln, including the glazes. The glazes blister and boil and some glaze components are reduced to pure metal (hence the term reduction firing). Finished pieces have beautiful colors and patterns of luster and, usually, a small number of pinholes or craters that are a physical record of the boiling of the glaze.

The late Beatrice Wood was renowned for the reduction-fired lusters she produced over a 50+ year career. Seeing her work at the Oakland Art Museum inspired me to try to make reduction-fired lusters.

There were no textbooks or books of formulae to guide me. The few artists that have made these lusters guarded their information and left little behind.

At first I had only failure, but years of study and ceaseless testing have brought me a palette of glazes that enhance my vase, bowl and platter forms.

The colors and amount of luster are variable, so each piece has a unique presence, even if it is similar to others from the same firing.

Lusterware - Care & Feeding

o These lusters are not UV sensitive and will not fade in direct sunlight.

o They may be cleaned by dusting or hand washing.

o This work is not suitable for food or liquids: the clay is porous and acids may leach metals from the glaze.