Potter John McCoy brings years of experience to the table. He talks about his technique and creating a studio in sunny Florida.
ABI: How would you describe your body of work?
JC: I am a functional potter. My work is inspired by the rich and ancient traditions of ceramics as well as natural and organic objects. When making pots I look for clean, simple lines and a sense of fluidity. I have a classical approach to clay and when I combine and alter forms my goal is to make contemporary pieces with a sense of history.
I feel my new work has been enhanced by the warm color, ash deposits, textures and patterns created by wood firing. This natural process allows the viewer to share my experience with clay: from the marks of my fingers on the pot, to the mark of the flame that leaves its impression on the surface of the pot.
ABI: You collaborate with other artists to do wood firings. How does this happen?
JC: Firing an Anagama kiln is a community project. The kiln is fueled by wood which needs to be fed to the kiln at regular intervals, day and night, for several days. Because of this, one person alone is not able to fire the kiln by him/herself. A group of potters have to be willing to collect wood, cut, stack and take work shifts. The process is labor intensive and long.
To organize a wood firing, a call goes out to potters interested in firing their work in the kiln. Schedules for wood splitting, stacking, loading kiln, work shifts, unloading and cleaning up are set up. We need to reach 2350 degrees in stages to achieve different results. The pots will have different marks based on the position in the kiln, whether they were fired on their sides or vertically and how much ash or flame interacted with them.
ABI: How did you design your studio?
JC: I taught ceramics for 36 years. Based on my experience, I had a general idea of the floor plan and work flow that I wanted in my “dream” studio. I knew I needed separate work areas for throwing, glazing, firing and a small area for displaying and storing finished pieces. I also have a space for packaging and storing chemicals and clay.
I live in Florida and wanted to be able to enjoy the weather and the outdoors so the studio has large front and back doors that I keep open and a large window by my potter’s wheel with a view of trees, palms and orchids.
ABI: Tell us about your semi-annual “Home Sale” event.
JC: Twice a year I host a “Pottery Show and Sale” at my studio. I find that people are interested in checking out the studio and the kiln and see where all the work happens. I usually invite two or three potters to join me to show their work.
We set up tents in the front yard and put up signs in the neighborhood. We send out invitations to our mailing lists. The shows are during the weekend and we have one in December and one at the end of April or beginning of May. These dates are chosen because of the weather so people can enjoy the day outdoors, looking at the art and talking to the artists.