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Tony Ferguson
American Master of Anagama

Anagama wood fired tea bowl w/ tenmoku & natural fly ash glazesIn his own words

My work is for the eyes, hands, and the heart. I attempt to create pottery with the same dynamic energy as my teachers and the Shigaraki and Bizen artists of traditions’ past - yet as an American who as been inspired by these fine works. I am attracted to the sculptural qualities of the stoneware clay body I use - its earthiness and rawness of being, its masculinity and brutality-it is all there for you to see - it is a heavily grogged, iron-laden stoneware body that is raw or “single fired,” no bisque. I also use its polar opposite, porcelain, with its silky smooth, feminine character, its whiteness and purity, it softness and kindness to my hands. The works are glazed with shino because of its atmospheric interaction, earthiness as well as ash and salt glazes. I enjoy the green gems of pooled ash and the depth of the clay/glaze relationship that single firing allows. I use a gas kiln or my Anagama to fire my work. With its torn and rough surfaces on the outside, its smooth and gentle surfaces on the inside, my work is about struggle and development, searching and finding as one progresses up their own path.

Anagama wood fired vessel w/ oribe & natural fly ash glazesWorking with clay has been a struggle for me because the clay reflects every action, thought and lack of attention. It is the looking glass of dirt. There is no “cheating” the clay, for everything you do is there to see—your mediocrity, your laziness, your expertise, your creative intelligence. When you are honest with yourself, it has the opportunity to teach you about many things about yourself and the purpose of your existence. Any true, creative process will bring this about.

I have spent a great deal of my time developing and experimenting with the most traditional form of glazing and firing, “raw firing” where very few contemporary clay artists work in this process because of its unreliability and high percentage of loss. I see the potential for loss as the potential to create something extraordinary.

We live in a world that says we can control our environment, that we can create security by surrounding ourselves with material things, insurance, money, a bigger better safer car or truck. This notion of security I believe is an illusion. If something is going to happen….it will happen - it is rather how we deal with the situation and move on that defines us.

Anagama wood fired vessel w/ copper & natural fly ash glazesI have learned that you are not the clothes you wear...the car you drive...you are not your bank account, your net worth, your beautiful body - you are something much more than you know yourself to be...therein the creative process is your true self discovery.

Destination, as our scientists are now discovering in our DNA, I believe, is a complex montage of multiple lives, multiple actions and reactions, causes and effects - and our living is a playing out of these causes and effects - discovering our true selves and relationship to what is true. What we can do at best is try to flow with elements in our environment. Trying to exercise control over that which we have no control over will only lead to unhappiness.

I attempt to create forms that will have a relationship to the conditions of fire and flame, ash and cooling that will take place during the firing. I enjoy the risk taking—because of what may be, because of what might happen beyond the confines of a totally controlled environment, because of what unique gem may ensue. My work, in its simple utilitarian and sculptural forms, attempts to speak to the divine in us, to draw your attention in and consider the infinite and creation.

Wadding a potLike the Abstract Expressionist movement, I try to coordinate the elements for the “Happy Accidents” to take place. It is a relationship between myself, the clay, glaze and firing process and something more—that is what has drawn me to clay and the wood firing process, for the wood firing process embodies all the five elements—earth, air, fire, water, ether, and their enveloping relationships of fusion and timelessness. Under the starry night, this exciting and unbelievably labor intensive process brings me closer to the act of creation—a soul expressing itself on the curtails of the creator, a child imitating its father, a soul making its way in this creation, creating, developing, becoming.

Tony Ferguson

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