New Brunswick Artists: MNO Pottery

Ceramic artist Darren Emenau (MNO - get it?) grew up in New Brunswick on the Kennebecasis River (where I grew up) and graduated from the New Brunswick College of Art and Design.  I have always loved the organic pieces of MNO Pottery and even have a few myself.  His work is constantly evolving, especially in his experimental use of glazes.  

Darren now lives in the countryside near Brown's Flats and built his own kiln on the property, deep in the woods, using recycled materials from older unused kilns.  His love and respect for the natural environment permeates his work, from the use of soft bricks in his kiln (which take half the energy of traditional hard bricks) to the clay and glazes he uses.  Instead of purchasing processed clay and porcelain, he digs up stoneware, earthenware, and porcelain from local New Brunswick river beds, leaving stones and other impurities intact.  He also sources local granite, slate, calcium, quartz, limestone, potash, salts, and wood ash to create unrefined glazes that change depending on their combination, the temperature of the kiln, and the type of fuel he uses.  

How each piece will turn out is a mystery until the kiln is opened after burning, a process during which Emenau and his friends methodically feed the kiln and stoke the fire by hand for hours on end, reaching temperatures above 1260 degrees Celsius.  The combination of materials, heat, and smoke are different every time, and this unpredictability is part of what Emenau loves.  In Man on Fire (a fascinating account of one all-night firing written by Kate Wallace), he states that "I really just constantly want to be surprised. Every firing is different, it's a lot of feel and intuition." His organic shapes and glazes reflect an artist that sees beauty in unique imperfections, much like the beauty of nature itself, which is probably why I find it so appealing.

I think this last one is my favourite, I just love the shape (looks like a wave to me) and the colours, however, I would be happy with any of them.  :)  What do you think?  To see more details on each of these pieces, including the specific type of clay, glaze ingredients, and fire, head over to MNO Pottery's website.  There are also excellent photos and details about how he built his kilns (he is on to his second now), and on his creative process.

This post is one of a series I am doing on New Brunswick artists, which so far also includes photographer Freeman Patterson.

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