Mary Kaun-English is a contemporary ceramic artist currently living in Britain. She was born and raised in Southern California where her passion for nature started as a young girl. Living in the then undeveloped San Rafael foothills, she was allowed to explore this desert landscape, being conscious of the natural spirit and materials around her.
Mary moved to Britain in 1988 and works from her studio in Surrey, creating hand-built sculptures made from clay. These pieces are smoke fired, exposing the porous clay to the smoke given off by the natural organic materials used to fuel the fire. The results are organic sculptures embellished with an account of the smokes ephemeral passage across the clay. Her recent work centres on an opening in the form; this fundamental part of the work allows air and light into the solid form of the structure.
Her work is currently held in private collections throughout the UK, Scotland, California, Boston, New York, Toronto, India, Shanghai and Australia.
Mary Kaun-English’s clay pieces have not been glazed. They are fired by the ancient method of smoke firing. The pieces are handmade using clay and initially fired in an electric kiln, at 950°C. This dries the work and makes it stronger; however leaving it porous.
The work is then placed in a large pit in the ground on top of a bed of sawdust. Organic material such as pine cones, seaweed, orange peel, banana skins etc. are placed around and on top of the work. A bonfire is built on top of this. At this time the pit is covered with corrugated sheet metal and left to burn for up to 24 hours. Once the pots are cool enough to handle they are removed from the pit, cleaned and polished. The marks on the pieces are made from the smoke penetrating the porous clay. Due to the intensity of the smoke firing process, these marks can take form as unevenness and fissures in the sculptures surface; thus adding an additional textural dimension to the work.