Tim Sherman | 389
Tim Sherman is a potter making functional, utilitarian pottery on an electric potters wheel. Sherman glazes and single fires all of his work in a large wood-burning anagama style kiln at his home in Frederick, Md. He makes everything from tableware: cups, mugs, bowls, plates, pitchers to decorative vases, jugs, and large scale jars. Although Sherman has control over the form and glaze he applies on his pieces, much of the final outcome is left to the mercy of the kiln. Over three days, layers of ash land of the pieces and eventually get hot enough to melt into an additional glaze. Though many of the forms are similar, no two pieces will ever be the same. Evidence of flame pattering and firing length is a huge part of the aesthetic in his work. Each piece tells a story of where and how it was packed into the kiln as the fire leaves markings on their surfaces as it fights to exit the chimney of the kiln.
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Do you think creativity is something is learned or is it something you are born with?
I think it has a lot to do with, I don’t know if it’s genetic or what, but I think deep down inside people are creative or they are not or they are somewhere in between. I think it’s hard to learn how to be creative. It is helpful for people to point out things. I find that all the time with my students where they just might not see something. If you point out patterns or habits they might have they in turn become more creative. So it’s a mix of both but I think deep down the most creative people, whether they are painting or potting or whatever, have a lot of that by chance or by luck.
Why wood for you , instead of electric or gas?
I’m not a control freak but I really like the tangible qualities of firing with wood. I actually enjoy splitting wood a lot. That might be hard to believe, but I’ll come home from work or whatever and I will go down and split logs. It just feels good to accomplish something that is going to help me out down the road and of course the pyromaniac thing that goes with out saying. My kiln is not huge but I can shoot an impressive amount of fire out the chimney which I don’t like to do, but I can do it. That you cannot do with an electric kiln without the fire department being called on you.
Do you rent out space in your kiln?
Yeah, that’s kind of dicey. I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big problem but apparently, at least in my area, there are a lot of people who are interested in it. The crew that I took on to begin with, who helped me raise money for the kiln shed, a lot of them haven’t left, so I can’t make more space. The kiln is what it is. But if someone is not going to be available I will absolutely rent space.
What is the going rate for kiln rental space?
That’s a good question too. I don’t know. I will tell you what I charge and I don’t know if that’s right. I’ve been told I’m way too cheap, but I think it’s fair. I charge for 3 cubic feet, which is about half the size of a normal size electric kiln, I sell for a hundred dollars. That included the wadding you have to put on the pots and the glazes and the wood. So it covers all my costs and it seems to work out.
Wood firing makes interesting marks on the pots. Do you plan your pieces for the way the fire is going to be going across it in the wood kiln?
Absolutely, and it’s harder than it might seem. It takes the right kind of kiln, the right kind of clay, whether it’s slip or not on top, and I have been most recently interested in the right kind of wood. So burning, whether it’s the species or what most people don’t think about is the dampness. If it has a lot of water, if it’s green, or if it’s been drying for a long time. And of course the kiln placement. That is I think the most obvious thing.
What is your favorite piece to fire in the kiln?
The plates I’m really interested in because every firing they can be so unique for those same reasons I talked about. I have a thing for pitchers too. I really enjoy the way they fit the arch of the kiln because that is such a big part of it. They really tend to grab ash out of the atmosphere it seems like.
What is the perfect balance between work and personal life in regard to Instagram?
You know I would like to post more personal life stuff, but a lot of people don’t care about that it seems like. So the pottery thing is what drives the things that I post.