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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

At the Witter

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

BVU grad comes home with pit-fire pottery exhibit

September's exhibit at the Witter Gallery is pit-fire pottery by area artist, Brian Barkey. Mr. Barkey is from Clarinda. He is a teacher at Clarinda Community School, where he teaches art to grades 9-12. Mr. Barkey is also a 1988 graduate of Buena Vista University, and did his student teaching under the supervision of Ron Netten at the Storm Lake High School in 1988.

Mr. Barkey's statement about his art, "I have always been an outdoor person. I grew up hunting, fishing, golfing and camping. My love for the outdoors shows in my two-dimensional pieces which consist of landscapes and wildlife scenes. That interest is now showing up in my pottery.

The first time I heard of the primitive, pit-firing method, I was interested in the process. The idea of firing clay at temperatures of 1,000 degrees or higher, without the use of a conventional kiln, plus the idea of doing it all outside was very interesting to me. After experiencing inconsistent results, I wasn't so sure that this method was for me after all, but after more research and experimentation, the results started becoming more positive and consistent. I started experiencing more color, and fewer pots were cracking during the firing process. I started burnishing (polishing) the clay and applying a finish coat of lacquer to give the pot a glassy, finished look.

The most exciting part of pit-firing is the anticipation of uncovering the pit and discovering what individual and unique markings were acquired during the process. A potter can add the right fuel or chemicals to determine what colors might be present, but there is no way of controlling the markings or where they will occur. The uncertainty of how the pots will look makes the waiting and anticipation almost unbearable."