From March 3-11, ceramicist Shawn O’Connor will be a visiting artist on the USM Gorham campus. O’Connor will work with intermediate and advanced ceramics students to build a paper kiln. He will also present a ceramic kiln workshop, a wheel throwing demonstration, a career talk with senior seminar students, and more.
To construct the paper kiln, O’Connor and students will use materials such as fire bricks, chicken wire and scrap clay. Newspaper, wood scraps, twigs, sawdust, and pinecones will fuel the fire. The ceramics will be fired to about 900 degrees Fahrenheit. The distinctive marbled appearance on the surface of the finished works occurs as the ceramics come into contact with the flames and combustible materials within the kiln during the firing process.
According to O’Connor in his artist’s statement: “No two pieces are exactly the same because the flame’s path records distinct marks on each piece. The path of the flame can be controlled when stacking the kiln. Great time and care is spent on each piece as it is loaded, as this will dictate the way the flames move over and mark the surface of each piece.”
O’Connor’s works have a hefty, traditional feel, with earthy colors and textures. They are saturated with the hues of sand and flame, sunsets and volcanic ash. The unpredictable, somewhat adventurous, process of creating the ceramics has a visceral quality. The idea of laboring over a hot kiln also has its appeal in the midst of a bitterly cold and unforgiving winter.
Take advantage of O’Connor’s free lecture at the Kidder Lounge in Robie Andrews Hall at the USM Gorham campus on March 5, 12 PM. Learn more about his work, and then enjoy a look at the paper kiln.