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Local pottery gallery displays 150 wood-fired pieces

BY ALYSSA MARIE HARN | NOVEMBER 12, 2010 7:20 AM

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Tucked away in the mountainous region of Clarksdale, Ariz., Don Reitz meticulously watches over the wood-fired kiln that bakes his artwork. A small lidded jar sits in the oven, cooking at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit.

This jar is one of the five pieces Reitz made for the 30 x 5 Holiday Invitational at AKAR Gallery, 257 Iowa Ave., which begins today and runs throughout the holiday season. Reitz is one of the 30 artists who made five pieces of pottery for the event, altogether creating 150 ceramic pieces. Their creations will be on sale at the gallery with prices ranging from $50 to $4,000.

Sanjay Jani, a co-owner of AKAR, said the event is special because it showcases the diversity of the artists.

"This 30 x 5 represents a wide variety of potters," he said. "The idea is to have 30 different artists who represent a huge diversity cost-wise, stylistically, and in age and experience."

This is the 10th year AKAR has held the holiday invitational, and this year's theme is wood-fired ceramics.

Wood-firing is the process of baking a piece of clay artwork in a wood-fueled kiln for many days.

With this practice, the ashes from the wood leave their mark on the clay and blend in with the glaze, which creates a particular finish not seen in other forms of ceramics.

Jani said wood firing allows the outside of the pottery to "tell the story by which the art pieces were created."

"[The 30 x 5 Holiday Invitational] celebrates the variety and especially the richness of wood-fired ceramics and the process of wood-firing," he said.

Reitz was happy this theme was chosen for his second year participating in 30 x 5.

"I like the process of wood-firing and taking a utilitarian concept of a container and making it into an art object," the 81-year-old said.

Reitz made two free-form bowls and three jars for the event this year, all of which were made in a wood-fueled kiln in his studio, Sycamore Clay. This potter of 53 years said his favorite creation for the invitational was a tiny jar.

"One of the most memorable pieces from 30 x 5 is the small lidded jar that is altered to reflect the process and the softness of clay in a hard rock form," Reitz said. "It is a great piece for the wood-firing form because it accepted what the wood wanted to offer it."


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