Ken Shenstone

I am an artist whose clay work focuses almost exclusively on wood firing in an anagama style kiln. Firing with wood creates surfaces like no other method of firing. The burning wood provides heat, but the fine layer of ash laid down upon a pot reacts with the clay at high temperatures, forming a natural glaze. These deep, rich, natural ash surfaces are my areas of research and expertise.

The qualities I search for with this process are the same as those I seek in people and the world at large: they should show transformation, intuition and clarity. They should be individualistic, and slow to reveal themselves.

tsubo

My work is, to a large extent, a collaboration between myself and chance occurrence. Because of the large number of fortuitous circumstance and accidents involved in this type of wood firing, each piece is entirely unique. I exercise a fair degree of control with my clay in terms of form, but then I fire the pieces in a way that allows only limited control. Though not random, surfaces and even changes to the form are unpredictable. The best results are often unplanned.

These works are fired in my kiln in Albion, Michigan, which at 1000 cubic feet (28 m3) is one of the largest anagama style kilns in the United States. I recently constructed a smaller, noborigama style kiln for the purpose of running tests for the larger kiln. I create wood fired kilns and gas fired kilns. I also designed and built my own studio, which was finished in 2009.

I divide my time between engineering and construction, working in clay, and fine woodworking. I view each aspect of this work to be part of a whole. I have been strongly influenced by my family traditions of engineering and artistry, and the range of my work allows me to express both those traditions fully.

I earned my Bachelors degree from Albion College in 1984, and I chose to stay here after graduation. While in college I studied with Richard Leach, whose teaching inspired an active group of young artists, including David Smith, John Dix, David Sipkoff and David Habicht, all of whom were influenced by Peter Volkous, and all were strongly attracted to wood fired clay.