Earth, Fire and Salt by Micki Schloessingk

Micki has been making pots for many years. Sensitivity of form and knowledge of material are integral to the making of each pot. Inspired at an early age by the terracotta pots and orange soil of India, Micki has a profound respect for the earth beneath our feet.  Understanding its qualities and its limitations, Micki works with clay to transform it into pots that we can use and enjoy every day. Holding one of Micki’s tea bowls in your hands is comforting, pouring cool water from one of her bottles is an easy pleasure. Micki makes work that is tactile. It has a reassuring weight to it, its forms are naturally ergonomic and its textures are fascinating. 

A leading maker of wood fired pots, Micki is one of a small handful of such accomplished potters making wood fired and salt glazed pots worldwide. Her profound insight into the language of clay has grown through her nurture of the medium. The assured forms, evocative textures and rich colorations that Micki achieves in her work do not come about through happenstance. Although there is inevitably an element of unpredictability in the firing process, Micki has a sensitive knowledge of the palette of wood firing and salt glazing, one that informs her every decision in the studio.

Micki throws and hand-builds her pots. Some of her seemingly most simple, hand-built pieces are the most considered, shaped by hand for other hands to hold. Micki’s wood fire kiln is a dynamic entity in itself, shifting with each firing. The two day firing cycle is physically demanding and requires keen attention throughout. The placement of the pots in the kiln determines the paths taken by the flames, the salt and the wood ash, each of which dramatically affects the finish of the pots.

For the past sixteen years Micki has developed Bridge Pottery, where she lives and works, in the rural village of Cheriton on the Gower peninsular in south Wales. Bridge Pottery comprises a gallery, kiln shed, studio spaces, clay room and versatile outdoor areas. It is both a vigorous and peaceful environment into which Micki welcomes visiting potters, students and members of the public. Creative conversation and collaboration are integral to Micki’s practice that, by its nature, continues to evolve with each pot that is fired.

 

Introduction by Ceri Jones

 

In making pots to be used and enjoyed by others, the sense of touch and the interaction with each pot are integral to how they’re made. Skill, knowledge and sensitivity contribute to each pot in equal measure and when the kiln door is opened after a ring, Micki is full of excitement and anxiety. Detailed note-taking, intricate and precise kiln packing, exact feeding of the kiln with wood and salt at optimum moments during the two-day ring cycle, all make their marks on each and every pot. And each and every pot makes it mark on Micki as she considers its final character. Each pot goes out into the world with care and passion in its making.

The consideration then passes to us. For, choosing a pot to use and to have in our lives is a delightful decision. We touch it, hold it, view it, sense how it makes us feel. Pots can bring real pleasure to our everyday, they can enhance daily routines and rituals. The raw materiality of clay, the insight and ability of the potter, and the practical demands of daily life, each of these impact on the form, aesthetic and function of ceramic pots. It’s well worth taking the time to delight in them.

Micki’s exhibition Earth, Fire and Salt is a celebration of exemplary wood fired pottery. It is another thread in The Language of Clay: Part One series. This is a series of exhibitions that explores just a handful of the multifarious manifestations of clay. Anna Noël’s exhibition Telling Tales has brought us fables and suspended animation in Anna’s figurative ceramics. Anne Gibbs’ exhibition will explore sculptural forms and our sense of space. All the work is brought into being with skill and sensitivity; attributes that stem from dedication to and intrigue in an arguably indefatigable medium.

Interview with Micki Schloessingk and Ceri Jones

Clay Throwing

 

Firing

 

Exhibition at Mission Gallery

Touring Schedule

 

Ruthin Craft Centre

Denbinghshire

1 October–27 November 2016 

Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre

Cwmbran

8 April – 27 May 2017 

Mission Gallery

Swansea

16 July – 4 September 2016

Ceramic Gallery

Aberystwyth

4 February - 24 March 2017

 
Micki_Studio_049.JPG
 

Biography

Micki is a maker of wood fired and salt glaze ceramics. She has been making pots since being struck by the vibrant red earth and terracotta wares in India, where she travelled aged 19. It was the raw qualities of clay that affected Micki, that the earth under our feet could be transformed into vessels for our everyday. Wood firing was, and remains, prevalent in India. It is a dynamic firing process that alters the clay body in myriad ways. Micki works her cross draft, wood fire kiln within exacting parameters. Conditions in a wood fire kiln are volatile and the effects on each pot are variable and unique. Micki knows and embraces the characteristics of wood fired ceramics and explores these to rigorous ends in each of her handmade pots.

Since that informative encounter with ceramics in India, Micki has been dedicated to her pottery practice. Working and researching pot-making and kiln-firing has led Micki to Ireland where she worked with Gratten Freyer, to France where she worked with Gustave Tiffoche, to Breda in Spain and, more recently, to Australia and the USA. Attending the Studio Pottery course at Harrow College of Art, Micki was taught by Mick Casson, Walter Keeler and Victor Margrie. Aged 26, Micki established her first pottery making wood fired, salt glaze tableware in Bentham, North Yorkshire. Twelve years later Micki moved with her family to the Gower peninsula in south Wales where she built up Bridge Pottery in the rural hamlet of Cheriton.

For the past sixteen years Micki has continued to develop Bridge Pottery, which now comprises a gallery, kiln shed, studio spaces, clay room,
and versatile outdoor areas. It is a dynamic and peaceful environment into which Micki welcomes many visiting potters, students and members of the public. Creative conversation and collaboration are integral to Micki’s practice that, by its nature, continues to evolve and shift with each pot that is fired.

Micki has work in several collections. These include the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Crafts Council Collection in London, Instituut Pieter Brueghel in the Netherlands, Rudolf Strasser Collection at the Museum of the City of Lanshut in Germany, and the William Ismay Collection in York Art Gallery. Recent exhibitions have shown work by Micki at the Craft in America Centre in Los Angeles, Contemporary Applied Arts in London, Creabiz in Denmark, Bevere Gallery in Worcester, Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Micki has presented at conferences such as the European Wood Fire Conference in Guldageraard, Denmark and Women and Wood Firing in Arizona.