Native America Meets Raku, Anagama, Porcelain
Nothing gives me more pleasure than to get my hands working in clay. I feel totally at one with the story I want to tell when I tell it in clay ... the conflicts, the joys, the sorrows and the awe ... all of these feelings can come out when I work in clay. I get attached to each and every clay piece I create, because they each take on their own unique identity.
I'm a Native American artist, and I love the idea of working in media that have "diverse" origins ... including raku, anagama, and porcelain.
The process of creating "Raku" ceramics originated in Japan in the 16th century, and was first used for the purpose of creating ceremonial tea bowls.
Lillian uses raku mostly when she wants to have a lot of color in her pieces, and when she wants to have a degree of control over the designs that she creates. The glazes give her the color; the firing process gives her the control.
I like to use the types of designs that were used by my ancestors ... designs that were found on their cornhusk bags, "sally" bags, beaded bags ... on their mocassins and on their dresses ... and on other things they used as part of their everyday life.
They were very proud of the decorations they put on things ... and they loved using color, geometrical designs and abstract images.
And when I work with raku, I always get a sense of doing something that's spiritual. I always think about it from the standpoint of its origins related to the Japanese tea ceremony.
Anagama is a wood-fired process that's much older than raku. It came to Japan from Korea in the 5th century.
Lillian uses the anagama process to create masks and sculptures that have a more natural and earthy quality to them than her raku masks.
She uses anagama whenever it's less important that the pieces have a precise look, and more important that they evoke a mysterious almost spiritual feeling, as in the cluster of images shown here.
I love the anagama process, but I really have to get myself into the right frame of mind when I use it. I can't be in the "control" mode like I can with raku, because with anagama, you never know what you're going to get when the pieces come out of the kiln.
In anagama firings, the fire actually dances around the pieces being fired, and does whatever it wants to do. There's no way to control it, and that's by design. In anagama, it's the fire that creates the patterns and marks, not the artist. The artist doesn't really have too much to say about it.
I shape the clay, of course, and the efforts of my hands are recorded on the clay. But in an anagama firing, it's as much about the fire's effect on the clay as it is my hand's effects on it.
For me, anagama is a wonderful process because it's so natural ... and because there can be nothing more mysterious and more spiritual than clay and fire working together.
I always feel privilged to be working with anagama, and humbled at the same time.
Lillian's Anagama Firing Location
Shown here is an anagama kiln where Lillian first started doing her anagama firings. For the last 15 years, Lillian has been doing her firings at the Dragon Kiln in Astoria, Oregon.
Anagama firings are typically community events. The firings Lillian participates in take a team of ten or more people who need to constantly feed the fire over a 72 hour period of time. It's not unusual to use as much as 4 cords of wood in a single anagama firing event.
Because of the time it takes and the amount of wood it consumes, anagama firings take place only rarely. The Dragon Kiln, for instance, has only four firings a year. So if you're an artist working in anagama, you need to be comfortable with long term planning.
Porcelain, which is generally believed to have originated in China, is a type of ceramic material that when fired, has irridescent and translucent qualities about it.
Lillian uses porcelain whenever she wants to maximize the spirit-like quality of her ceramic pieces. She fires her porcelain using the anagama process described to the left.
All of Lillian's pieces are made using Southern Ice porcelain from Australia, which is more expensive than other porcelains per pound, but Lillian finds it's the only porcelain that can give her the kind of spirit-like effect she wants to achieve.