Art — Slew of free cultural events on tap before West Coast Woodfire exhibit closes later this month

The Chehalem Cultural Center’s current exhibit, “West Coast Woodfire: A Legacy of Innovation and Influence,” will wrap up later this month with a slew of activities celebrating wood-fired ceramics.

Wood-fired pottery isn’t exactly new; massive, wood-fired kilns were the traditional method of firing pots and other ceramics for thousands of years. But the form fell out of style after more efficient kilns using gas, propane or electricity were developed in the 19th and 20th centuries.

However, wood-fired ceramics have experienced a resurgence in the past 25 years, and the movement can trace much of its roots to artistic communities in Oregon, California and Washington. The part local and regional artists have played in that resurgence will be one of the many topics discussed during the exhibit’s closing events.

First up is “Rakupalooza,” which will coincide with popular local musician Ben Rice’s Tunes on Tuesday concert Aug. 20. Running from 5 to 8 p.m. that evening, the event will allow participants to purchase a pot of their choosing, glaze it and watch it be Raku-fired before their eyes.

West Coast Woodfire will wrap up Aug. 23 with a conference that includes a variety of activities. The conference will get fired up at 1 p.m. with a keynote presentation by ceramicist Marc Lancet, co-author of “Japanese Wood-Fired Ceramics” with Masakazu Kusakabe, of Miharu, Japan.

Lancet’s work is in the collection at the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Center of Shigaraki, Japan; The International Ceramic Center, Skaelskor, Denmark; and the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Copies of the book will be on sale at the conference.

Following the presentation will be a panel discussion at 2 p.m. featuring Lancet, Willamina ceramicist Nills Lou and Washington ceramicist Steve Sauer. The panel will share insights and answer questions from the public about wood-fired ceramics.

A “Local Clay” workshop will be hosted by artists John Benn and Richard Rowland beginning at 4 p.m. Benn, a professional potter for 27 years, built his first wood kiln in 1976. Rowland is the mind behind the Astoria Dragon Kiln and a recipient of the Oregon Governor’s Arts Award.

The exhibit will conclude with a closing reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., hosted by the exhibit’s curator, George Fox University art professor Mark Terry. The reception will include appetizers, wine and beer, and the opportunity to interact with the artists whose work comprises the exhibit.

All of the events are free, but space is limited. For more information or to reserve a spot, visit

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