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Artist Insights

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A word from Chris…
My name is Chris Gray, and thank you for your interest in my work. This body of  work is the culmination of years of making functional pottery out of stoneware and porcelain, and even more years of cooking. I love both, and loved that they worked together… but eventually that wasn’t enough. That’s when it occurred to me that flameware clay could be the answer to my problem. So I researched a good bit, made some clay, and started testing. And testing. And testing. Luckily, many have come before me that have done the majority of that research and I could focus on using it, and testing the limits.
Flameware is a high fired, heat and fire proof body that can withstand vast temperature changes. It has a wonderful ability to handle thermal shock. So after testing many pieces myself, and giving some to trusted friends who cook, I started to get busy designing and making cooking and heating pots. Flameware is very similar to cast iron in its heat retention, and non-stick properties. In fact, I season mine just like I do my cast iron pans. I find the pans I make to be even more non-stick than many cast iron pans after being used many times. It can go from the refrigerator to the stove top. I tend to heat the pan up with the stove top burner just to be safe and thorough. I also use these very often over a wood or charcoal fire with no problems. You should never use flameware if it has been cracked in some way. And this is ceramic, so dropping it will shatter it. On my larger frying pans I make handles like a cooking pan would have. I do not use the handle for flipping food, but for moving and positioning the pan over the fire.
    I have had no issues with washing these in warm soapy water, and losing the non-stick properties. Many use salt and warm water to scrub it clean. That works well too.
    I hope you enjoy using these as much as I do, and if treated well, these will last a very long time.
    Thank you and keep cooking.
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Todd’s Train

CG: Aye mate! How did you get in to woodfiring and what was it about it that hooked you?
TP: There is no simple answer, but my first exposure to woodfiring was with Dick Lehman when I was first learning how to make pots.  The community aspect to firing the kiln was certainly a great experience.  We spend a great deal of time alone as studio potters and I loved the opportunity to come together as a team. I was also privileged to be a part of the final few firings of Dick’s kiln, amazing fifteen day firings with incredible results.  I couldn’t help myself after that, I was hooked 🙂
CG: For those that aren’t familiar, describe the kiln’s history and some of the highlights along the way.
TP: This is tough for me, we just finished removing it from the shed a few days ago and it was a painful experience. The kiln went up in August of 2015, Ted Neal came up from Ball State and did his thing.  Although I had just over fifteen years of woodfiring under my belt, I had very little kiln building experience.  It was a privilege to learn from him and have such a wonderful kiln resting right behind my studio.
Highlights were certainly the first firing with Anna and Gunner (our dog), the Handle with Care workshop firing with Eric Botbyl and Matt Schiemann, and the last firing a few weeks ago with the Goshen clay community.
At this moment, some of the most memorable moments are tough to think about.  Hand and paw prints in the concrete, cleaning and carrying thousands of bricks with my parents, sanding the fingerprints off the ifbs to make sure the kiln sparkled, unloading those super orange pots from the first firing.  All great memories and I am grateful to carry them into the future.
CG: These pots are bloody gorgeous mate. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the final firing and what’s next for the ol’ train.
TP: The final firing was legend!  It was a challenging experience as I was on the brink of tears throughout parts of the firing, but it was also a lot of fun.  I am happy I was able to fire it one more time and very pleased with the results.  It was as if we went back to the first few firings, lots of orange flashing and great carbon trapping.  I don’t know exactly what I would have said was a perfect firing, but we couldn’t have been far off.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do with the kiln when I arrived (back in the US) in March, but I think we have found the best possible solution.  I donated the kiln to the Goshen Youth Arts Center and am happy to know the kiln will be rebuilt and firing again soon.  I can’t wait to visit Goshen and fire the kiln again in the near future!
Cheers mate 🙂
Check out pots from the final firing of Todd’s train HERE.