Interiors and Exteriors
Art and Design
Objects and Antiquities

Thursday, August 2


A master of his craft, Harlan House has been working with clay for the greater part of his life.  We were given the opportunity to tour his studio and were astonished at the accomplishments of this renowned potter.  He constructed the building, propane kiln, wet room, spray booth, and beautiful showroom furnishings; he has engineered and manufactures his own clay and glazes, not to mention his mastery on the wheel, and his innovations in slip-casting.  I've never seen a more perfect tea cup form.  He believes, if you make it yourself, there is nothing and no-one to blame other than yourself when things go awry.  Mistake can lead to a new innovation and the best way to learn is to "get to work".

Still fuelled by an insatiable curiosity, Harlan has travelled all over the world to learn centuries old ceramic techniques from individuals working in the industry.  He has uncovered manufacturing secrets; things that aren't taught in a contemporary art potter curriculum.  We left his studio feeling richer in knowledge, both of the ceramic craft and how to live life.

In The Forge and the Crucible : The Origins and Structures of Alchemy (Mircea Eliade, 1956), the text illuminates prehistoric ideas surrounding metallurgic transformations that appear in regions (Africa, China, India, Europe, etc) that began working with kiln and firing technology for ceramics, and further developed their technologies to facilitate higher temperatures for working with metals.  Myth and practice in metallurgy requires a certain level of  sacrifice and dedication to the material.  Craftspeople would live in solitude, cleansing their mind, body and spirit in order to be open to material discovery and experience.  The effects of fire are central and the process of transmutation is a combination of technical practices and religious/spiritual concerns. These individuals were often considered magical people (similar to shamans, medicine men, or sorcerers).   Harlan fits this archetype. 

New and impressive work by Harlan House will be exhibited in Montreal at the Canadian Guild of Crafts in September 2012.

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