Black Pots

I developed the series “Black Pot-Dawn” in the early-1990s, as a means of expressing a sense of transparency to the surface of wood, not unlike one sees in a ceramic glaze. The inspiration came from witnessing the atmospheric shift that occurs in the moments before daylight actually appears in the clear mountain and desert skies of the Southwest.

Each piece is made from the crotch of large ash trees, where the classic “figure” grain appears. I find ash to be a wonderfully versatile material to work with, here revealing not only the magical complexity of figure grain, but also the dramatic contrast between the spring and winter grain lines when burned and burnished.

Once turned, the piece is first burned with a torch. I then sand back through the char in the areas of the figure grain to reveal the natural color of the wood. From there I burnish the surface to reveal the figured patterns as if they were emerging from beneath the opaque surface, which, in fact, they are. In effect, I am composing the surface between sanding and burning until the balance that I am after appears. The power of these surfaces comes from the movement of the swirling opaque grain lines juxtaposed to the intricate patterns revealed in the smooth figured areas.