About

Willemite Ceramics is named after the mineral Willemite, one of a variety of minerals that can form synthetic crystals in molten ceramic glazes. This occurs while the kiln is cooling, at about 2,000 degrees F in the kiln. Willemite crystals grow quickly relative to other crystals that form in glazes, a few hours at 2,000 F can result in crystals a few inches across.

The ceramic objects on this site are all hand-made through various techniques: pieces are thrown on a pottery wheel, sculpted by hand, or cast by pouring a liquid porcelain slurry into handmade molds.

Crystalline glazes and dendritic slip techniques are used to create decorative formations, imitating the naturally occurring chemical reactions happening within the earth.

The pieces on this site are all created by Evan Cornish-Keefe. Evan has been working with clay since 2009, and has a BFA from Alfred University, where he studied ceramic art. Since graduating in 2013, Evan has moved from New York to Asheville, North Carolina, where he is currently pursuing pottery as a career and lifestyle among many talented artists and craftspeople.

 
 Clear glaze on brown clay with Willemite crystals grown in the glass, photographed through a microscope.

Clear glaze on brown clay with Willemite crystals grown in the glass, photographed through a microscope.

 

Artist Statement

I enjoy sculpting forms by hand, and using tools like the pottery wheel to turn a lump of mud into a useful, interesting or beautiful ceramic object. I usually start my process by sketching the form on graph paper, and trying to imagine the finished product in as much detail as possible. This means imagining the exact shape, size, function, color and surface decoration. The more clarity i have, rather than working in an unplanned manner, the more pleased I tend to be with the finished piece.

The geometry and aesthetic order of the natural environment always amazes me. I'm fascinated by techniques that mimic nature. I like to think about clay on a microscopic level, to consider the geological activities occurring within the earth, and the chemical reactions that can be emulated in a kiln. I like to explore processes that help me gain a deeper understanding of the materials I use, their origins and properties.

Clay and glazes are composed primarily of rocks and minerals that have been crushed to a powder, either by millions of years in the earths crust, or by manmade mechanisms. The mineral powders of specific types and ratios are mixed with water to form malleable clay, slip and glaze slurries. In the heat of the kiln these minerals, both in the clay and glaze, will melt into a type of glass (which no longer has a crystal structure) in a process called vitrification. if the glaze is of a certain chemistry, and is cooled slowly, minerals can begin to crystallize within the thin layer of glaze, in a process called devitrification. In this way I have produced a wide variety of unique glazes in an extensive array of colors, glazes that devitrify into a variety of crystal species. I find the intricacy and organic nature of these glazes endlessly captivating. Although they only coat the surface, they allude to the action of magma and the transformation of the minerals which compose all ceramic objects.

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