Featured Artist – Russell White

Russell White wears many hats: freelance Production Field Mixer, homeowner, pet-parent, plant enthusiast, mad scientist… and, gifted artist. The fourth-year Art-A-Fair exhibitor is a likable guy who punctuates conversations with quick wit and a winning smile. But, don’t let his laid-back demeanor fool you… the talented ceramist is a master of the complex and challenging technique known as crystalline glazing.

Ceramic works typically undergo several stages of creation. The ceramist “wedges” a chunk of clay to remove any air bubbles, “throws” (or, forms) the piece on a potter’s wheel, and then “fires” the raw clay vessel into a bisque state using a high-temperature chamber called a kiln. Once the bisqueware cools, the artist applies liquid glaze containing various minerals and fires the piece again to obtain the finished results.

Russell works his unique brand of magic in the home-based studio he maintains in the Huntington Beach house he shares with two Greyhounds and three Siamese cats. His primary work area is a covered, outdoor structure he built on his backyard patio. It is home to two potter’s wheels, the majority of his ceramics tools, dozens of pedestal ring supports in virtually every size, a spraying chamber, an oxidation kiln and shelf-upon-shelf-upon-shelf of test pots and tiles. A reduction kiln (partially obscured by a massive cat tree) stands at the far end of a lushly landscaped patio. Cardboard cartons housing a massive assortment of powdered glazing minerals are meticulously stacked in garage cupboards. And, works in progress – carefully organized into greenware, bisque-fired and finished glazed groupings – are lined up on outdoor, built-in shelving units.

It’s fair to say that this man pretty much does it all. Russell works exclusively with porcelain (the preferred clay body for most crystalline potters) which has a silkier texture than standard ceramic clay. He literally purchases mixed clay a ton at a time. Since each piece takes 35 hours to produce, Russel’s clay stash typically lasts about a year. He wedges his clay on the same potter’s wheel where he throws his vessels.

He places each pot on a pedestal ring inside a collection tray during glaze firing to separate the piece from the pooling glaze (which, uncontained, could burn a hole in the floor of the kiln!). Russell typically powers up his kilns at nighttime to enjoy the “fire and brimstone” drama at its best. The two kilns serve very distinct and different purposes. Russell’s signature crystalline structures require oxygen (and glaze movement) to grow. Therefore, vessels featuring crystalline glazes must be fired in the oxidation kiln. Certain glaze colors (such as purple shades) require the reduced-oxygen firing environment of the reduction kiln. So, how does one keep the two straight? As Russell so eloquently puts it, “You’d turn purple without oxygen, too!”.

We could easily write a book on Russell White’s artwork and still not tell the complete story – so, you’ll just have to come see his breathtaking work for yourself. Don’t miss your opportunity to see and purchase his one-of-a-kind pieces!

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