Elk Creek Pottery friends, Michael Hammond and a bunch of people up Elk Creek (on
the way from Medford to Crater Lake) had a huge studio, communal living area above
the studio and several kilns including experimental small wood stoked underground kilns,
mostly made by them with infinite craziness and dedication. Michael lived in a partially
underground house with dirt floor, woodstove and home made furniture. They often
invited the Clayfolk potters to a wild wood firing at the creekside. A smallish Raku kiln
was started off with a portable propane burner, then we all took turns feeding it wood
kindling to get it up to temperature. After a long evening of firing we would heat some
bricks in the kiln, pluck them out with tongs and run down the bank to a willow sweat
lodge that had been previously set up. After steaming ourselves pink, we jumped in the
ice cold creek. There was a wood cook stove brought to the party as well as an upright
piano. In the morning they cooked us breakfast on the stove and different ones played
the piano. This would go on for days.
Another memory was the chicken coop pots (1976-77-ish). Barbara White (later Boye),
Doug Black and I cleaned up an unused chicken coop on Barbara’s mom’s property up
Sardine Creek by Gold Hill with linoleum for floor, 3 pottery wheels, shelves, and a
handcrafted sign. We fired our pots in Central Point with a woman from whom we later
bought her kiln. Nancy Claypack and others had a pottery community up the creek and
we all got together to confer about pot )and party. Barb, Doug and I called ourselves
“chickencoop pots” and we sold mostly planters to local garden shops. I lived on the
property by this time in a 1937 school bus and Doug had a tiny trailer. At one point we
decided to build an underground kiln like we saw at Elk Creek on Barb’s mom’s place.
We borrowed a pug mill and clay mixer from Elk Creek Pottery (millions of pound
each…groan–probably the origin of all later back problems) and made large soft bricks
with a mixture of fireclay and earthenware. We then leveled a spot and stacked bricks
in a circle igloo style to make our kiln. (how hard could it be right??) Our plan was to fire
it in place with wood waste from local woods around us. (cool huh?) a few weeks into
the process and ready to put in the capstone and it began to rain….rain….rain….and the
whole thing caved in. What a mess. Needless to say Barbara’s mom was not too
Clayfolk was just getting started then because I remember a show we did in a building
(now gone) that was part of the old Jackson County Fairgrounds. Barb got an idea to
borrow fruit boxes for display which worked out very well. Al Dockwieler uses them to
this day at the Clayfolk Show. She also suggested that we all put pictures of ourselves,
“the artist as a child,” up in our booths…everybody did it and it was very fun to see.
Visit Peppi at Booth 55 at the upcoming 40th Annual Clayfolk Show & Sale.
Details about the 40th Annual Clayfolk Show & Sale.
Visit the Clayfolk 40 years of history page for more stories and photos.