Mirka and wood-fired porcelain clay

Mirka and her “new chapter” with porcelain clay inspired us to ask her few questions.

Wood-fired porcelain clay

Mirka, you have started to work with porcelain clay. Is that something new or a kind of a return to the roots?

A bit of both, probably. Porcelain is not a new material for me, but not a return to the roots, either. It is me using the properties of the material for different reasons than earlier. Before it was just its aesthetics – its color and smoothness matched well with my glazes and decorations. Now it is a combination of function and aesthetics. As a material, porcelain is suitable for some kinds of tea – porcelain bowls give rise to smells, thus pleasantly complementing and expanding the range of others materials we use.

Now you are making tiny “tea stuff”. We have been used to large pieces, such as tea boats, Jin Shui, and jars. Why the change?

It’s been some time that I wanted to move towards a wider range of tea pottery – more than a year in fact. However, I must confess that I made the transition the moment I got the chance to attend a residency program at STARworks studio North Carolina. I am glad for this opportunity as to attempt this transaction in our workshop next to Petr would most possibly lead to total failure and I would have probably dissolved all my first pieces before they would have gone to the kiln. This way, some of them managed to survive and develop over the three months of residence. Moreover, the residential art centers are great for trying new things. You are taken out of your comfort zone, there are new materials, different kilns and even the new people influence you. One can no longer stick to their old ways even if they would want – trying something new is absolutely natural there.

Do you stick to the wood firing or do you combine it with electrical firing?

With porcelain, I have stuck to wood firing. I primarily wanted to use Czech porcelain clay and thanks to the helpfulness of the people from the Dubí porcelain factory I managed to get their porcelain. To achieve the desired properties in this material, you need reduction firing and high temperatures. Of course, I cannot rule out that in the future I will work with porcelain clays suitable for lower temperatures and oxidation firing. It is true that I have been toying with a possibility of merging the functional and aesthetic properties in oxidation – but I don’t want to anticipate too much.

Are your porcelain pieces inspired by some kind of timeless classic?

They are, especially with regard to function. It is kind of logical and reasonable to take inspiration from traditional tea ware that has been developing only very slowly, with every shift having a reason – on the other hand, I do not let this influence limit me. Four years ago, potter Simon Levin quoted a sentence that I’ve heard on more occasions and that I love because it captures the essence of my approach to work: “Tradition is the tending of the fire, not the worship of the ashes.”

Mirka Randová and Petr Novák founded the Ceramics studio Doupě o.p.s., where they work on their ceramics and teach. Both have participated in many symposiums and ceramics exhibitions, they are also regularly invited to the Tea Bowl Festival in South Korea. They use wood-firing technique and make their glazes by themselves from materials available in the Czech Republic.

 

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