Artist Profile: Beatriz Gutierrez Mar/Apr 2021

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Wood-Fired Pottery

Lynchburg Living Editor Shelley Basinger: Beatriz, you aren’t originally from the area—or even the country! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Beatriz Gutierrez: I grew up on the island of Tenerife, Spain. My journey with clay began in Scotland at the age of 28 and continued when I moved to America to study at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina in 2010.

SB: What other types of training have you received to improve your skill?
BG: I am grateful for the mentorship I have received from other potters since the beginning. Most recently, I have been studying wood firing with
Kevin Crowe at Tye River Pottery in Amherst County. We stopped last March when the COVID-19 pandemic began. He has a big kiln that requires 12 people and seven days to be fired. All the work is loaded into the kiln, but we are still waiting for when we can gather safely to fire.

SB: I’m sure you are looking forward to that day! Meanwhile, you spend a lot of time at your own studio in the Coleman Falls area of Bedford County.
BG: We have been building my studio for most of the past decade, using reclaimed materials collected over the years, including all of the bricks used in the construction of my kiln. That is one of the reasons why everything has happened very slowly. I have broadened my skills by being involved in every step of the process. I have worked mostly with my husband, Paul, with the occasional help of friends and neighbors.

wood fired pottery

SB: What is a typical day like for you at your studio?
BG: Depending on the weather and the time of the making cycle, I start my days with wood preparations: splitting and stacking. In addition to wood from my property, I purchase locally harvested wood from a logger down the road. The wood needs to be dried enough for the success of the firing—that is why it is stacked is so carefully. Inside the studio, you will find me clay mixing, reclaiming clay, mixing, maintaining my glazes and throwing. I mainly use a kick wheel to make my work and I harvest local clay to make my pieces.

SB: What types of challenges have you faced?
BG: Transitioning from mid-range temperature electric firing (how I used to make my pottery) to wood firing has been a difficult challenge. Over the past year, I have not had a lot of work available to sell because I am still working out the details of the kiln.
It could take me one to three months to produce enough work to fire my kiln and with the preheat,
it takes three days to fire.

SB: What are some of your favorite pieces you
have created so far?
BG: I love all of the shapes I am making. Tea pots are so much fun! Making the jars with the right curve is always a good challenge. Then, the lids
and the spouts and the handle. I love putting all of the parts together in a way that pleases my eye. When they end up working beautifully, it’s a great feeling of satisfaction.

SB: That transitions perfectly to my next question. What do you love so much about working with clay?
BG: Clay has memory—it records the process of making, shows the quality of the thoughts I had when working. When the clay is exposed to the flames of the fire in the kiln and vitrifies, all the conscious and unconscious choices in the making process are revealed. This is always a bit shocking. The power of pots relies on how ordinary and mundane they are. Objects we use every day on our tables.

SB: What’s next for you? What do you have planned in the coming year or in the future?
BG: There are so many pots I want to make this coming year: casserole dishes, planters, baking dishes. Each new form is an adventure.

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