Barbie and Ken caught in a fire

By Mikhail Ronnander

Sun Star Reporter

The “Ken and Barbie Series,” is where ceramics teacher

Professor James Brashear has been an art professor at UAF for more than 20 years.

Professor James Brashear has been an art professor at UAF for more than 20 years. He’s giving a lecture Wednesday about love, art, and symbolism. Photo courtesy of Red Lodge Clay Center

puts clay “couples” in a kiln and fires it up to see if they come out beautiful or damaged.

The UAF professor who is giving a lecture Wedndesday says the couples going through the torture of the flame symbolizes how a real life couple goes through trials and always come out together.

Brashear’s research involves studying the ways that trees pick up earth elements such as silica, iron, and manganese, to understand the patterns and coloring left on clay fired in a wood-burning kiln. Brashear is using his research to better his artwork and to allow other ceramic artists the ability to understand the processes their art goes through in the kiln.

He found that as trees are absorbing organic and inorganic nutrients from the ground they also aboard elements like silica, an oxide of silicon most commonly found in quartz.

Silica serves a purpose for the tree as well as the ceramics artist, says Brashear. The silica in the tree gives the tree more rigidity to deal with stresses as well as providing a defense against bugs and animals.

The biggest deterrent from Brashear’s work is time.The large wood kiln housed at the Agricultural & Forestry Experiment Station takes up to 60 hours to fire a load of over 100 pots. Some one has to keep feedin it wood to keep the temperature above 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

This limits the number of experiments he runs per year.

Because they use several types of wood in a firing, he isn’t able to accurately study the effects of different tress on the pottery.

“I want people to think about and realize how universal and intertwined history, art, and science are,” Brashear said, “ The more you know about something, the more there is to know.”

One of his favorite art pieces is when he puts a ceramic plate into a wood kiln to see what the flame pattern “draws” on it.

Brashear will present Wed. night in the Schiable Audtiorum at 5:30 p.m.

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