The clay tumblers, abstract objects, and tea sets that sit in the Morean Center for Clay Out of the Fire are all new to this world.
The pieces that make up this collection were created at the ceremonial anagama, or cave kiln, lighting in January 2021. Once a year, the towering kiln fires with moldings from artists (some local) and many from other parts of the country.
“This is a high drama ceremony; another world,” Morean Clay Center executive director Valerie Scott Knaust said.
Knaust herself is a clay artist who once practiced at the Morean Center for Clay. It’s a place where artists in residence spend one to two years creating, teaching clay classes, and honing their skills.
“I fooled around and fell in love,” Knaust said.
Out of the Fire
This year’s anagama kiln firing was like all the others. They held it in January, for obvious weather reasons.
Most of the participating artists are renowned professors and creators such as Matt Long, the head of the ceramics department at Ole Miss. But Jordan Kramer, one of the artists with a hand in the mix, is a 23-year-old fresh-faced ceramics artist from North Carolina happy for the opportunity.
“It was such great energy, even though it was a smaller crew than normal because we’re trying to be COVID safe,” Kramer said. “It feels like everyone is so invested in the firing and that’s the best thing about this art form, it’s the community.”
Her piece hangs in the white-washed exhibit room near its sisters.
The Center, in the Warehouse Arts District, lives in a brick building that once served as the Seaboard Freight Train Depot of St. Pete. The 1926 historic landmark became the St. Petersburg Clay Company in 2000, but now is home to the artists and art that make up the Morean Center for Clay.
Outside, pieces of elaborate clay works sit almost everywhere, including a chunk of the Berlin wall.
Exhibits like Out of the Fire often bring in clay-appreciating visitors.
“We pay our artists in residence and sell their work so they don’t have to get big-kid jobs,” Knaust said. “So they can just keep creating.”
Out of the Fire Morean Center for Clay, 420 22nd St. S., St. Pete. Wed.-Sat.; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.