POUDRE RIVER MURAL
I graduated from a school that was very famous for murals in all buildings – Claremont Graduate University, MFA, Sculpture and Drawing, 2 yr. So building my own studio in 1976 in Waverly, Colorado was a way to get started making murals. This was one of the first ceramic murals and was fired to high temperatures by me. This work was weather proof and well constructed to go into a public place. I am honored to have the work on a public library.
This was the first Art In Public Places Commission by the City of Fort Collins and I was thrilled for anything I got in payments.
This piece has an interesting history. I worked for Fort Collins Parks and Recreation as Head of Art and Crafts. I taught ceramics and helped build the City Park Pottery School. I had interesting students. I was in to teaching every age level and ability and one of the classes was for handicapped and real impaired. One day a lady in a wheel chair who had no eyes asked me, “Why don’t artists like you do things for people like me who can’t see?” I was floored – I had never thought of it. So this started the Poudre River Mural in wet clay I mixed just for this occasion. It was visualized as water I saw when in the Poudre River on level with the water. Rocks were popping out of the water. It was a real river bed you could run your fingers over and feel the same feeling of water. Then I glazed the tiles as close to what the water would look like on a sunny day. Of course some people were never going to see the colors but they could feel the surface and know how the water shapes itself.
Poudre River Mural | 3′ x 20′ x 8″ | Ceramic (high fired)
When you fire ceramics above 2,000°F you are high firing. At that point the clay is turning to glass – it becomes vitrified. That is what these vases have been, in process. When the temperature gets to 2,000°F you make adjustments on the clay being fired to color and glassify it. Adding salt at 2,000°F, you place it on an angle iron and load the whole thing up with as much rock salt as you can. Opening up a brick in the kiln, place the angle iron (holding salt) into kiln and dump the salt down the side of the kiln. It explodes like a shot gun and admits a little whiff of Chlorine gas – buuut it is over and gone. You keep pulling draw tiles out of the kiln with a long steel rod to hook onto clay samples – to see how much salt is actually getting knit into the clay. Because of the silica content the clay turns to an orange peel textured glass, and it gets thicker and thicker as you toss in more and more salt loaded with Copper Carbonate to make brilliant soft reds in glass on porcelain.
These firings take all my strength and daring – 24 hours total just in firing. When you look into the kiln you can’t see a thing except shadows of orange-white in each work at 2400°F. These vases were kept very silent – I wanted to be very reverent as to how they were fired and the artist it has taken to put all these acts together. This is a study I have been on for 45 years, happily, constantly surprised!