When I was fifteen years old, I started making pots in high school. By the time a year had passed, I wanted to be a potter. The wet clay smelled rich, like an abandoned silver mine we played in as kids. When I open a bag of clay today, the smell takes me back 38 years, to the mine up in the barren hills north of Reno.

Growing up in Nevada, the earth and rocks were close and intimate. They were soft and hard, dangerous and beautiful. Full of possibilities. They are home. I feel comfort when no excess vegetation spoils the view. It seems right, seeing mountains thirty or forty miles away, with bare rock standing right out. My tendencies towards pyromania are also appropriate. I always wanted to play with fire, a continuous fascination. The dense flames and smoke of wood firing, the struggle of artists with the most basic of elements, the metamorphosis of clay in heat: these are my personal rewards. Rocks and mud, water and fire.

I began potting full time in 1974, living around the small towns of, the Great Basin of North America. Living on the ragged edge of civilization (as we know it) is appealing. Thinking about making pots in the city, I knew the system could devour me. I chose the little towns, and have no regrets.

First, I had rudimentary studios in Wadsworth Nevada, and then at John and Rachael Bogard's Planet X Pottery, up in the Smoke Creek Desert. In 1978 I moved to Doyle California, and five years later, ten miles south to Zamboni Springs, where pure 105 degree water flows through my outdoor tub and supplies heating for my studio. It seems like a good place, and I'm staying here. Now in 2005 I'm 51 years old, and still hoping to do my best work. Hope springs eternal.

Until the May of 2000, my pots were gas fired. Now, it's mostly wood firing in my large anagama (climbing tunnel, or "dragon" kiln). Everything has changed. Now, there are two firings yearly, spring and fall, with a few gas-fire kiln loads in between. My main interests are with the wood kiln.

The main reasons I make woodfired pots are for the effects. Ashes come to rest on the clay, and with the intense heat, melt to form natural ash glaze. The flames lick around the pots, leaving colors and textures that can't be achieved with other fuels. The Salt chamber, above the Anagama, opened up an entire new palette. I hadn't worked with Salt glaze before this kiln, and now find myself thinking about Salt a lot.

Then there is the process, gathering wood, making 60 to 90 boards of pottery to fill my space in the kiln. Planning what will go where, and preparation of tests goes on throughout the year, anticipating the next burn. Firing is a great thrill, with smoke, flames and friendship. To put a good edge on things, three months of work are at stake. It does take over my life sometimes, but I like it.

One of my cherished beliefs is that, faced with serious challanges, people sometimes rise to the task. Grappling with the difficulties of wood firing has been good for my artwork, I think, and for the work of my friends.

Connection to other ceramic Artists, through the e-mail group Clayart, has encouraged me to put up this website. The first thanks go to them (you know who you are) for this. The rest are too many to list. It's a way for me to reach out to the larger World, and I hope you have enjoyed the visit. Stop by in person if you can.

Best wishes,
Paul Herman

Great Basin Pottery  

Email: info@greatbasinpottery.com
Phone: 530-827-2706

423-725 Scott Road
Doyle, CA 96109
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