The Appeal of the Anagama: Why this Ancient Method Still Survives

Penelope Dews :: November 2nd - 18th at Hanson Howard Gallery

When we see wood fired ceramics we are immediately aware it is unlike the ceramic work we typically encounter. Much of what we see in ceramic art is fired in electric or gas kilns, though if we are not familiar with the techniques, this is not something we would register. We would probably note there is a distinctively “earthier” appearance with the wood fired pieces.  What sets wood fired ceramics apart is the tonality and textures that can only be obtained through this centuries old process using the Anagama or Noborigama kilns.  Originally from China, the Anagama kiln found its way to Japan in the 5th century. All these years later the technique and structures have remained true to the original methods.

This is what excites me about wood fired ceramics.  I love the variety I see in surfaces and I’m drawn to the rich earth tones, immediately, but I also have a deep appreciation for the archaic.  The fact that ancient methods survive solely because no new developments have improved on them is a beautiful thing.  These continued practices tie us to our history as the arts can do so well.

The Anagama kiln is an earthen structure built in a sloping shape with a firebox at one end and a chimney flue at the other.  The fire and the ceramics share the same, single chamber.  The craft of this firing method is in the understanding of how to load the kiln. This requires imagining the path the fire will take, how the ashes and the embers may fall depending on where the pieces are placed in relation to the fire and to each other.  Although there is an element of chance always, there is also skill, developed through experience that determines the final outcome of the firing. I imagine it is this combination of skill and chance in Anagama firing that enchants these ceramic artists.  Craftsmen tend to have a deep respect for the nature of their material and allowing for that nature to play it’s role in the collaboration.

Penelope Dew's Elephant is an example of the surface created in the  Noborigama kiln

Penelope Dew's Elephant is an example of the surface created in the  Noborigama kiln

The temperature can reach  2,500 °F, producing fly ash and volatile salts. It is the complex interaction between the flame, ash and minerals of the clay that forms the natural ash glaze which may vary in texture and thickness.  The surface may turn out smooth and glossy or rough and sharp.

A Noborigama is attached to the Anagama and the fire flows from the Anagama through the Noborigama to get to the chimney flue. The soda is introduced to the Noborigama when it has reached its highest temperature. The soda produces a shinier surface which also has an orange peel appearance.

The firing may take around 100 hours.  The entire time it must be stoked around the clock.  This can take up to eight cords of wood.  The cooling period can take just as long before the kiln is ready to be unloaded.

The firing may take around 100 hours.  The entire time it must be stoked around the clock.  This can take up to eight cords of wood.  The cooling period can take just as long before the kiln is ready to be unloaded.

Penelope Dews produces wood fired ceramic sculptures, portraying mainly animals, and other natural forms.  She chooses wood firing for the subtle colors and stone like surface. Ranging from realistic to whimsical, her animals exude peaceful, playful expressions with a touch of the mysterious.
The sculptures are hollow and formed by pinching together modified coils (short, fat and flattened). Paddling, scraping, and smoothing conceals where coils overlap. Often the faces and extremities are carefully detailed, while the bodies are left uniform and unadorned. In contrast, others are highly decorated, with colored clay slips, textured by stamping, carving or added pieces of clay.   

Penelope's latest work is featured in the gallery through November 18th, 2017.  These pieces were fired in the Anagama/Noborigama kiln at Hiroshi Ogawa's in Elkton, OR earlier this fall.  

*All images here are the property of Penelope Dews.  

-Élan Chardin Gombart

Lewis Anderson Selected for the 2017 Publication of "Seeing in Sixes"

Gallery artists, Lewis Anderson,  was recently honored to learn that he was published in a new book by the prestigious editors of LensWork in their new book titled “Seeing In Sixes”. After reviewing over 1900 international projects for the book, Lewis and 49 other artists were chosen to show their work in the format of 6 images with text text which in Lewis’s case included a poem titled “Crossover”. This was the second year in a row he was chosen to be included in Brooks Jensen’s and Maureen’s Gallagher’s book from LensWork Publishing. 

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See Lewis Anderson's work on our website or in the gallery.  If you would like to be kept in the loop on new work as it becomes available please contact us and we will keep you posted.

Bob Schlegel on Oregon Art Beat

Bob Schlegel of Banks, Oregon is one of our newest artists in the gallery.  

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About his work Bob tells us this:

The interaction of shape, contrast and line cause me to transform forms into images in paintings, collage and prints.  Of particular interest to me are structures that are juxtaposed into landscape.  I strive to create images that possess tension between the representational and the abstract. 

I paint in the studio and plein aire from preliminary sketches in charcoal, pencil and oil pastel and take reference photographs as necessary.  My finished paintings are in oils and acrylics on gesso prepared paper, panel and canvas.  I also create monotypes and images from cut paper and collage.  Drawing is the foundation for my work.  I am tenacious with the sketch whether it be life-drawing session or in the field.   I full journals with sketches and narrative from travels.  Through line, contrast, texture, color and composition I explore my responses to form and shape where things in the natural world and things that are made by man collide.  

Most recently I have been working on a series of assemblages resembling birds.  The texture and gesture captivate my imagination.

See the full artist profile on Oregon Art Beat BY CLICKING HERE

Noriko Sugita

You may have been in to see Noriko's prints this month as part of our featured exhibit (if not you have until Tuesday, Oct. 2) but in a portfolio, normally out of view, we have a small collection of unframed prints that I just had to share.  They are too lovely to stay tucked away all the time.

Here is a peek at the portfolio.

Feel free to ask to see these in person anytime!

New Work from Robert Schlegel

Robert Schlegel is a painter from Banks, Oregon who has been exhibiting since 1973. Schlegel's subjects are found in the environment surrounding him.  Of particular interest are man made structures juxtaposed with the landscape, the interaction of shape, contrast and line.

Robin & John Gumaelius

Quills & Queues: Washington couple show whimsical works at Hanson Howard

By Jeffrey GillespieFor the Tidings


Posted May. 26, 2016 at 4:15 PM

 

John and Robin Gumaelius are longtime collaborators, both in life and in art. The husband and wife team, who have lived 17 miles outside of the tiny Washington community of Cosmopolis, have been collaborating on their whimsical artworks of ceramic, steel and wood for at least a decade and a half. Many are on display at the Hanson Howard Gallery in Ashland. The sculptures, which carry forth childhood memory and might provoke, in the viewer, a certain desire to continue their childhood hopes of seeing fairies at the bottom of the garden, are metamorphic entities that delight and inspire.
A stony-faced pharaoh with a crown of birds gazes out onto a world that we can only hope to imagine through his eyes. An alabaster-colored marionette rides a tricycle to goodness-knows-where, a raven perched atop her head. A pair of ceramic court jesters are joined at the hip, and painted on their conjoined belly is a visual interpretation of their "Shared History." Elsewhere in the realm of the Gumaelius imagination, a figure in harlequin pantaloons rides a one-wheeled bicycle with a Pandora's box of treasures attached to the front end.
With this sort of imagery on full display, it's no surprise that the Gumaelius' love a good story. Living as homesteaders in their small town, they are raising four children between the ages of 6 and 14. As such, much time is spent in the nooks and crannies of the school library, where John and Robin seek out children's books, history books, art and audio books that inform their processes. They have a particularly strong interest in books about icons, reliquaries, medieval and Renaissance history. There is a current focus on African skin decoration, as well as holy relics from Germany. 
The Gumaelius' began their artistic and romantic collaboration during college, when John walked into Robin's studio and saw a large ceramic lady with a giraffe popping out of her dress, leaning up against the wall. While beautiful, it was too top-heavy to be stable. "He said, 'l can fix that for you,'" recalls Robin. John built a special wagon for the piece, and the signature "Gumaelius cart" was born. The children followed, as did a large house and studio with a woodstove, goat barn, hay loft, two dogs and various resident animals. There is a river to swim in, and a fire pit for chilly nights outdoors.
"It just doesn't get any better than this," says John. 
As far as making the actual art goes, John creates oval coils that he can build into a head in just a couple of days — the same amount of time it takes for Robin to carve the surface of just one small figure. She will often sit up in her rocking chair (a comfort that was excavated from the burn pile at the local school) working a piece in her lap while the two listen to audio books. The small porcelain pieces are built using a combination of molds, slabs, extrusions, pinching, and coiling. John and Robin often build four or five pieces and then keep them moist in Tupperware boxes and plastic bags until they are ready to carve them all.
John's larger pieces are wood-fired, so he spends more time chopping and stacking wood, strategically loading the kiln, and actually firing the kiln.
The children are also beginning to follow their parents into creative pursuits, working on various art projects on the property. Robin considers the family penchant for artistic endeavors to be something of a tribal motivation. "Art isn't this separate thing for us," she says. "It's just part of the way we are." 
The Gumaelius family, much like the art that they manifest, seems to live in a special place somewhere between the magical and the real. Spend some time with their pieces, and you too will likely be granted a glimpse into a world of sweet alchemy.
New work by John and Robin Gumaelius will be on view at Hanson Howard Gallery, 89 Oak St. in Ashland, from June 1-28, with an artists' reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 3, during the First Friday Artwalk.
Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Daily Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

 

MAY


FOR THE BIRDS

APRIL 22- MAY 31

Artists reception First Friday,
May 6,    5 - 8 p.m.

Birds fascinate us, enchant us, connect us to the natural world, remind us of our responsibility to the environment, and call us to action.  In our exhibition, For the Birds three artists interpret birds as subjects in very different ways.


Jhenna Quinn Lewis brings life to canvas with oil paint, exquisitely articulating small birds in juxtaposition with unexpected objects and backgrounds.  In this show, Jhenna combines Asian influences with some of her favorite birds.


Barbara Orsow’s fascination with birds in nature led her to use her camera to capture the mystery of their movement and her delight in the beauty of their details.

Claire Duncan paints the power and grace of large birds in acrylic.  Her paintings have a contemporary feel and attempt to deal with her own underlying artistic ideas: light and dark, the nature of color, the relationship of the artist to the world.

APRIL

APRIL

Greeley Wells :: Framed

figure drawings and video installation

March 29th - April 21st, 2016

Artist reception First Friday, April 1st 5 -8 p.m.

April 22nd - April 24th 

during A Taste of Ashland we will preview May's exhibit,

Jhenna Quinn Lewis, Claire Duncan & Barbara Orsow 

:: For the Birds ::

 

 

 

 

Karen Staal

This selection of Karen Staal's paintings featured in the gallery throughout the month of March focuses on scenes of musicians. 

Staal specializes in oil paintings of the human figure. While her portrayals are somewhat realistic, they are also interpretive. Intentionally steering away from realism, Staal interprets intimate human scenes by creating new harmonies with line, shape and color. With strong compositions and careful attention given to space surrounding and between figures, the emotional impact of that figure, or relationship between figures in her paintings, is strong.

Karen holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and also earned a degree from the Kendall School of Design. She studied abstract painting at American University in Washington, D.C. and portrait painting at the Ridgewood Art Academy.

Karen's solo exhibits in the past have been theme-related. Work in Two or Three Dimensions focused on issues surrounding social justice. The Dance was a series of paintings depicting movement and energy. The life-size series, Simple Times, was based on photos of aunts and uncles who remained hopeful during World War II.