A fairly new potter to Fire Opal Brookline, Dustin Harris, throws pots with the training and wisdom of a snowflake, or a Zen answer or a good used tool. With his skill and ingenuity with the soda kiln he created in 2006, his pots have the potential for favorite fireside status.
But what is a soda kiln? This kiln allows for the addition of soda, such as baking soda, at near top temperature during firing. At such a high temperature, the soda becomes vaporized and travels around the kiln with the flame. Like vaporized glass, the soda becomes a glaze on the surface of the clay, often with a stippled or grainy effect, having a very earthy quality.
Dustin says also, of its color, “The work receives a naturally colorful patina from the baking soda that flies along the flame path throughout the kiln.”
The potter can control how the soda hits the pieces by choosing how to load the kiln, where to place pieces in relation to one another and in relation to the walls and posts of the kiln. Sometimes spots will occur from soda being blocked on a piece, and soda over preexisting glaze on a piece will run together to create an entirely new– and relatively unknown–surface.
Interestingly, this method was developed by students at Alfred University in the 1970s (Dustin received his BFA there in 2004)– previously, the use of salt was the norm for soda firing, but potters were concerned with the environmental impact of the salt reaction. The process with salt yielded black smoke and hydrochloric acid in addition to effects on the clay, but with baking soda, low-impact carbon dioxide is released instead. (For more great info on soda firing, check out this article.)
The subtleties in Dustin’s pieces make them objects to grow with and cherish. All items are food, microwave, and dishwasher safe, making his mugs and vessels perfect for a hot fireside cup of coffee, tea or soup. Currently making pots as DH Pots teaching ceramics at Stivers High School for the Arts in Dayton Ohio, Dustin is a potter to watch.