home   info   gallery    articles    diary   links   contact    trivia

Owen Rye      Golden Ashes

To meet Owen Rye is to meet a man of fine intelligence, cast within a wiry beard, with eyes that are truly alert yet kind. His speech is well tempered but knowing and suggestive of vast experience. Now approaching 70 he is correctly accredited with inspiring the continued development of wood-fired ceramics in Australia.

This unsought mantle sits easily with this dedicated maker for whom the supreme creative process is to place his superbly thrown pots into the anagama kiln, where they endure several days of firing. Selected timbers are loaded in the huge worm-like anagama kiln, and for several days and nights a changing group of people attend the kiln, and bond and contribute to the outcome.

In his beautiful mountain ridge property at Boolarra, Gippsland, Owen Rye has established an ideal ceramic centre that functions as studio, timber yard and home. A nearby avenue of old trees runs along the edge, and in the distance the hills roll away. It is both Australian and archetypal in its appeal. The setting carries within it the history of the area, the efforts of Owen Rye and the influence of the pots themselves. Such poetic evocations are necessary, as the end- point is hard to describe without some prelude.

Deep in the lungs of the kiln, the swirling flames lash at the crouched pots, and their surfaces pickle and pit in the purifying heat. The pots emerge barnacled with ash and riddled with glaze runs, as the natural juices from the timbers bake, burn and ooze over the ceramic forms, during the several days of hellish fire.

What comes out could be called uncontrolled, though it is the result of perfect intention.

In the days following the firing, the kiln cools and its contents are garnered and sifted. The silence of the moment extends as each piece is inspected. Glories and failures sit side by side, until a body of satisfactory work is revealed.
The process has just begun.

Over the next few years and decades each ceramic will find a special home in a collector’s house, or in the artist’s home, and each day and night its form shall quietly change in the light. The moods of the works will alter and eventually a vocabulary of meanings will turn into memories, and the collector will form a relationship with his pot.

Such is the reward of the wood-fired ceramicist.

Joe Pascoe (Director, Craft Victoria)