THE ARTIST - Ken Sedberry
I received my M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, R.I., in 1977. I accepted a Residency at TheArchie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana where I studied and taught until 1979. Returning to the East Coast, I taught at The Catholic University of America until 1981.
My family and I moved to North Carolina where I designed and built my first studio and wood fired kiln. For 27 years, I lived and worked in the small mountain community of Loafer’s Glory. In 2008, I designed our current home and studio space along the Toe River in Burnsville, NC.
One of the most critical choices in my life was to leave the urban arena of Washington, D.C., 36 years ago and move to the mountains of Western North Carolina. There seems to be a certain rightness here. There are larger rhythms. The trees and mountains shrink you right down. I’m less serious about clay than I have ever been. Other priorities such as family, friends and neighbors, running and soccer, take me away from the clay and yet seem to allow me to accomplish more with it.
Several years ago my wife, Connie and my two sons, Noah and Galen and I, spent quite a bit of time backpacking in Central America. The colors and imagery of the rainforests, the tropical flowers and the coral reefs of the Caribbean have greatly influenced my work. The colors on the surface of many of my pots, sinks and sculpture are anything but subdued! The work seems to bring smiles to people’s lives, and that happiness in returned to my family and me tenfold!
I chose, a long time ago, to finish most of my work in the wood burning kiln. This process is more common in Eastern pottery tradition than Western. Unlike firing in a gas or electric kiln, firing in a wood kiln is a process that demands constant attention. It requires gradually bringing the heat to approximately 2300 degrees.
I love the process of stoking the firebox. There’s a connection there. You stay right with it from beginning to end. Wood firing means allowing this process to take some part in the aesthetics of the work. The variables are infinite and one gives in to chance. There are two to three months work in every firing and there are no guarantees. It’s continual risk. Wood fired pots are traditionally earthen colored, subdued, reserved and muted shades which are beautiful. My goal, however, has been to achieve color in wood firing - colors which combine with the conventional wood firing hues to create surfaces not unlike those found in nature’s wildest fauna, flora and oceans!
Most recently I have developed a porcelain slip and clay body mined from a local deposit of primary kaolin. It is rich in impurities of mica, quartz and garnets. This porcelain body flashes red to red-orange and influences the color of other glazes. Historically most kilns were built near deposits of materials necessary to make pottery. It is very satisfying to process these materials and use them to make and decorate work. It deepens my appreciation for the work made in earlier times.