Mark Tigges

Wood fired pottery

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I was very lucky to have been introduced to pottery at the beginning of high school. Lucky to have been at the school which employed my teacher, and lucky to have stumbled upon the joys of walking into a mathematics class with clay all over my pants.

I live in Maple Ridge British Columbia now. I ran a small studio in North Vancouver, selling cone 6 ash glazed pots at local farmers and craft markets. We moved because I decided I wanted to fire with wood. It's difficult to explain about wood fired pots the difference is essentially that there is control of the atmosphere; with electricity, you have only raw heat and the ambient atmosphere. When you burn something, you have many more variables to control. When you burn wood, you add ash, and ash can itself alone glaze the pots. The beauty of a wood fired pot is on the surface, the pot has a story to tell on how the flame marked it, where it carried ash on to the surface, how the flame licked around it, and how the smoke darkened it.

My kiln is a so-called manabigama. The name is an invented word stemming from the Japanese words for 'beautiful' and 'kiln'. It's a modern interpretation of an anagama, which is a kiln built as a tube up the side of a hill. The fire is built in the front, and the flame travels up the hill marking the pots. A manabigama is similar, a fire is built in the front section, below the flat ware chamber which is slightly elevated. The flame travels through the pots marking them before rising out the chimney. A manabigama can be fired in a day, most wood kilns need more than two.

My studio now is on the outskirts of a suburb of Vancouver. It's shared with a large garden, a small herd of goats, many chickens, and some hives of bees. The place and our life involves work, and I think that shows in my pots. I'm not the sort of potter that creates playful or whimsical pots. I like pots that invite being held and having hands wrapped around them to feel the surface, and to rest comfortably. It's always a great pleasure when a customer tells me of how they enjoy using my pots.