Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts on career and anagama kilns

How do I make a career out of this kiln? A decade has passed since clearing the first tree to make room for my large studio and kiln shed building, and I have pulled together three successful community firing events this past year and a half.  As one may guess, I am no where near sustaining myself with the volume or quality of work coming from my anagama.  Thoughts of financial windfalls and mega-grants pass through my mind as I ponder what financial success as a wood-fire artist looks like.  The enormous effort of both building the facilities and preparing for firings, my intermittent work-cycles, and a seemingly lack of demand for wood-fired pottery send me wondering why I ever invested an expensive college education in this erudite and extremely laborious pursuit.  

In so many ways, I am the product of an extended childhood that is unknown to many, but that is more and more common in my generation.  When I began my obsession with ceramics during my freshman year of college, the thought of financial responsibility was no more than a mysterious whisper.  I had always shaped my life around interests that engaged my mind, body, and spirit and expected the world to meet me with appreciation and support - and largely it did.  Upon graduation I moved back into an 1880's farmhouse on my family's land and began the kiln project that has anchored me during this past third of my life.  All I could think of during this long period of pay-as-you-go construction was the completion of the project and the firing of the kiln - not what comes afterward.  The how-do-I-make-an-anagama-my-job mantra just circles in my head.

Visiting other wood-fire artists and especially searching the web, I see people who seem to have successful kilns, craft centers, and pottery careers and I wonder what their recipe is.  Many of them are in academics, which is the only career path that was ever reinforced or recommended during my college education.  I was always attracted to teaching and see myself as much a teacher as a studio artist, and having this kiln allows and requires me to flex my educational skills constantly.  However, I built this huge kiln and a studio space during the period when most people were in graduate school.  Now I am looking around for direction - wondering what a studio artist career with an anagama on the gulf coast can really look like.

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