Mark Pharis Pottery

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Houston County is in the most southeast corner of the state. Much of the Southeastern Minnesota is unglaciated and a mix of agricultural land and hardwood forest – it was and is a beautiful area. I was newly married at the time, and we found a small farm with a ten stall dairy barn, which became my studio.  The first year was devoted to converting the barn into a suitable workspace and building a kiln.


Tim Crane, a potter also lived in the area. I had met him through Warren MacKenzie, and Tim was one of the people whose salt glazed work I had come to respect and admire. While functional, his forms were sculptural and strong, his surfaces warm, yet both boarded on austere. I had been salt glazing while a student at the University of Minnesota and the kiln I built in Houston was salt glazed. I fired it with a combination of wood and fuel oil. And, at the end of the firing, salt was introduced into the kiln.


The Houston experience was formative. Among other things, it was my first experience living is a rural area and because of that it was filled with a newfound awareness of seasonal changes. I came to understand the cyclical nature of farming; the curiosities of vernacular architecture, which on farms function like big pots, holding grain, animals and machinery. I began make small pots configured like granaries, among other things. Maybe more importantly, I began making work that I felt was mine.

Houston County is in the most southeast corner of the state. Much of the Southeastern Minnesota is unglaciated and a mix of agricultural land and hardwood forest – it was and is a beautiful area. I was newly married at the time, and we found a small farm with a ten stall dairy barn, which became my studio.  The first year was devoted to converting the barn into a suitable workspace and building a kiln.


Tim Crane, a potter also lived in the area. I had met him through Warren MacKenzie, and Tim was one of the people whose salt glazed work I had come to respect and admire. While functional, his forms were sculptural and strong, his surfaces warm, yet both boarded on austere. I had been salt glazing while a student at the University of Minnesota and the kiln I built in Houston was salt glazed. I fired it with a combination of wood and fuel oil. And, at the end of the firing, salt was introduced into the kiln.


The Houston experience was formative. Among other things, it was my first experience living is a rural area and because of that it was filled with a newfound awareness of seasonal changes. I came to understand the cyclical nature of farming; the curiosities of vernacular architecture, which on farms function like big pots, holding grain, animals and machinery. I began make small pots configured like granaries, among other things. Maybe more importantly, I began making work that I felt was mine.

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