Erin McArthur and Mike Gillan currently reside on the North Atlantic coast, dividing their time between St. John’s and Bell Island in Newfoundland & Labrador. The rich cultural life, rugged coastlines, and wild natural beauty continue to be a source of inspiration in their work.
Each project starts with a ball of clay formed into a shape, either by hand or on the wheel, and dried. Once dried, it’s fired to bisque in an electric kiln and cooled. The pieces are then decorated with glaze and placed in a propane-fueled outdoor kiln. Erin & Mike made one out of recycled oil drums and fire brick. The pieces are heated up once again to melt the glaze, usually to about 950C. Work is moved red-hot from the kiln into a bucket lined with sawdust, quickly covered to smother the flames, and let the smoke and lack of air create the unusual finish. The process is called post-fire reduction. After a short while, the piece is plunged into water, halting the reduction and holding whatever patterns have developed in the smoke and fire. When the piece is cool enough to handle, it is cleaned in warm soapy water, revealing beautiful and often surprising copper, aqua, and white crackled surfaces. All items, from a mussel shell to a vase, are individually shaped and fired, making each piece one of a kind. Raku-fired pottery is decorative not intended for use with food.
In addition to decorative raku pieces, recent work has included porcelain, food-safe pottery. Decorative bird dishes, mugs, ramen bowls, as well as other functional ware. All are oven, microwave and dishwasher safe.
Find Northeastern Folk Art online, in various retail shops around the island, or you can visit them in person on select Saturdays at St. John’s Farmers’ Market.