Kent, Connecticut. I was over at my friend Joy Brown’s studio today doing a bit of documentary photography for her. I’ve been doing portfolio, gallery, and magazine illustration photography for Joy for a few years now and it’s always a pleasure to work with her. She’s a world class artist and a great person and together we’ve made some nice images of her work.
She’s best known for these large, voluptuous, life-like figures in clay and in bronze. Her work is in collections all over the world.
She fires these pieces in a large wood-fired anagama kiln that she built on her property. It takes a week to fire the kiln with dozens of people working in shifts throughout the days and nights. An entire year of Joy’s work is in the kiln along with numerous other local potters. I try to get some pieces in each firing and I put my time in stoking as well.
Kent, Connecticut. Another view of two of Joy Brown’s ceramic sculptures. The pod is a large, hollow ball that joins dozens that Joy has made over the years. These are environmental sculptures that one can place out on a lawn or in a garden and move around experimenting with various configurations.
Joy’s figures, while not explicitly feminine capture feminine gestures, like the hips and legs of this figure from this angle. It’s one thing to photograph a woman lying back, looking for the right pose and feminine detail, yet another to take a month to build that pose from scratch out of clay. This is, no doubt, one of the many things that makes Joy a successful artist.
Joy Brown lives and has her pottery studio five miles up the road in Kent. I’ve known her for a while now and while I met her through her ex-husband (we drummed together) I now consider her to be a good friend.
Because I have a background in ceramics, hanging out at a successful, working pottery is not novel to me but it is novel these days; up until last year I hadn’t touched clay in over 25 years. But, Joy has me making things again if for no other reason, to put them in her huge anagama wood fired kiln which is fired once a year and takes a week to fire.
That fire is going on now and I routinely volunteer to stoke for a day or two. I helped yesterday for a while and while there, wandered around her place taking pictures of her work which is scattered all over the place, tucked into weed patches and piled in the woods.
Joy lived and studied in Japan for many years so her work is heavily influenced by traditional Japanese ceramics. I think her work is outstanding and it’s a lot of fun to photograph. Check this flickr set for more of it. I’ll be taking more pictures today and adding them to this set.
Our friend Joy Brown was loading her big anagama kiln the other day and I went by to see where my clay “balls” were going to be in the kiln and just watch the action.
Joy makes large ceramic sculpture of what seem to be large, round women sitting or kneeling. They’re wonderful and she’s got “clients” who have them the world over. Getting them in this long tube of a kiln is no easy job.
During my 12 hour shift firing the kiln Joy and I “mudded up” the door with wet clay and straw and rebuilt the firebox to let in a bit less air. Messy job but nice to get messy again after over 20 years of being mostly digital with little clay mess.
In the old days we used only pyrometric “cones” to measure temperature inside a kiln and they’re still used in many places. Cones are small ceramic objects that look like 3″ long, tall, thin pyramid that one sticks in a wad of clay and then places near a porthole so one can see it melt and know the kiln has reached a certain temperature. Now, in the modern (digital) age, digital pyrometers are used. The older one on the left here isn’t used anymore. The newer one (yellow) has two inputs from two probes: one for the front (the larger, higher number here) and one for the back of the kiln. This instrument is so accurate and the big kiln so responsive that you can affect change just by putting in the smallest piece of wood.
I went back the next day and Joy was struggling to get the back of the kiln caught up with the front and was stoking heavily with little air to create a longer flame and so, heat the back more. The flame was so long it came out the closed portholes looking for air.
The fire is over now. In a few days, I’ll go see the kiln unloaded.