Wood-fire ceramics to be the March exhibit at CCAC
By James Grob, firstname.lastname@example.org
The wood-fired ceramic artwork of Jo Anne Willemsen will be the featured exhibit in March at the Charles City Arts Center.
Simply entitled “Wood Fire Ceramics,” several examples of Willemsen’s unique work will be on display, and most will be available for purchase.
“My pottery represents my personal view of the world around me,” Willemsen said. “I enjoy using fluid organic shapes that remind me of what water does to a rock after many years of tumbling along in a river, or what a bird looks like as it strikes a pose along a shoreline.”
The CCAC will have a livestream opening reception with Willemsen on Friday (today) at 5 p.m. on the CCAC’s Facebook page.
Willemson, 68, lives and creates her pottery north of Mason City, and fires her pottery in a 100 cubic foot catenary arch wood kiln, which she built in 2006 and she named “Steel Magnolia.”
The kiln is made of 22,000 fire bricks and is covered with steel to protect it from the elements, thus the name. Willemsen also does some painting and electric fire pottery — and will have some examples of those creations in the exhibit — but the vast majority of her work is with wood fire pottery.
“It’s a labor of love, and I’m nowhere near quitting,” she said.
All the ceramic pieces have been fired to over 2,200 degrees and are functional for baking, although most people just use her pieces for decor.
Willemsen said that one firing takes three months from the beginning of the process to the end. She travelled all over the world to learn the craft, and worked with Nina Hole, a Danish artist, sculptor and performer who formed a critical link between the American and Danish ceramic traditions. Hole passed away in 2016.
Willemsen said she can’t help but feel “what the wind does to the surface of water” when she is working with clay in her studio.
“I focus on shape and form first, then add subtle color when I fire in my kiln, using the ash from the wood and very small touches of glaze to continue the lyrical and flowing qualities of the bowls, platters and dancing vases that I enjoy making,” Willemsen said. “I like to fire at high temperatures for 50-60 hours because of the effects of the ash that land on and then melt on the pottery, giving each piece it’s own signature from the kiln.”
Originally from Michigan, Willemsen attended Iowa State and studied interior design before moving to the Mason City area. She became involved with the MacNider Art Museum there and took her first pottery class more than 40 years ago. One of the potters had built a wood-fire kiln and inspired her to do the same.
“I instantly fell in love with it,” she said. “It’s what I’ve done for almost 40 years.”
Willemsen and her life partner, Roger, have been together nearly 30 years and have four adult children.