CERAMICIST | KILN BUILDER
Tyler Gulden is a ceramic artist, art educator and administrator. He studied ceramics at Alfred University and University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and has been a resident artist at notable craft centers like Peters Valley Craft Center, Haystack Mtn School of Crafts and Watershed.
A ceramic artist, arts educator and arts advocate, he has conducted workshops throughout Maine for children and adults, in addition to professional development workshops for teachers and artists, through the Watershed Mudmobile program. Other teaching includes workshops and lectures at Bowdoin College, Tabor Academy, Maine College of Art, Portland Pottery, and a position as Lecturer in Visual Arts and Culture at Bates College. Tyler worked for 12 years in arts administration at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine ending his tenure as Executive Director in October 2012.
Tyler’s functional ceramics are exhibited internationally in group and juried exhibitions. His current work follows the tradition of salt firing, in combination with the more contemporary process of soda firing, capitalizing on the unique color and surface variations that are a natural product of the process. For more words on Tyler's firing process look below.
Some notes on Soda and Salt firing...
This work follows a tradition of atmospheric firing called salt firing. An offshoot of salt firing is soda firing, where instead of using sodium chloride as the glaze component sodium carbonate is substituted. The process of soda glazing involves the introduction of sodium carbonate (soda ash powder) into the kiln. At the time when the soda is introduced the pieces and the atmosphere inside the kiln are roughly 2200˚F. The extreme heat inside the kiln volatilizes the soda ash and creates an atmosphere which glazes all the exposed surfaces of and in the kiln.
The resulting surfaces have varied texture and color, depending on placement in the kiln. Surfaces abutting the firebox(es) (trough-like areas where the burner flame enters and the soda ash and/or salt are typically introduced) will have greater deposits of soda glaze (identifiable by soft to pronounced “orange peel” texture and bleaching of glazes) than pieces centered in the kiln, protected somewhat from the heavier soda glaze deposits. Because of the variables in the firing process - time, temperature, placement and amount of soda/salt (and at what point it is introduced during the firing) - consistency is not a typical concern; though, much consideration does go into the process of forming, glazing and stacking works for a soda firing - a much more demanding and considered process than most. Clays and glazes are effected by and respond to the atmosphere inside the kiln, and even the most thorough preparation and calculation cannot prevent the beautifully unexpected or the painfully awful from occasionally happening. The interplay of the kiln atmosphere with the applied glazes and raw clay surfaces is where the intrigue and passion lies for most who use this firing technique.
One’s intuition is the primary guide to the process - finding the bright side to the “mistakes” and “catastrophes” that periodically occur during firings is just one of the tools of the trade that informs the works that are revealed the next time the kiln is opened.