“Women Who Run With The Wood”

Currently on display at the Sangre de Cristo Art Center is an exhibition representing strength, creativity, inspiration, spontaneity and friendship. 

“Women Who Run with the Wood” is an exhibition of wood-fired pottery designed and fired by local artists Vicky Hansen, Tracy Hartman and Deborah Hager. The three said they have been firing together as a group for almost as long as they have known each other. 

Each, having their own strengths in art, has found that there is something particularly rewarding about wood firing. Perhaps it is the technique or the uniqueness of the process. 

Wood firing is the oldest practice in firing pottery, as it uses a brick kiln filled with wood as the main source of heat. Temperatures in the kiln can reach upwards of 2,300 degrees, which allows for the distinctive yet unique coloring of the art. 

Fish Follies courtesy Deborah Hager
Fish Follies courtesy Deborah Hager

The artists have to constantly monitor the fire to make sure that the flame is at the right height and there is enough kindling to keep the fire going. The artists say at some times they are restocking the fire at least every three or four minutes. They must also make sure the temperature of the fire is hot enough to harden the pottery. 

Many would describe the process as being tiring and detail oriented, which is true but if you ask Hager why she does it, she says it is “because it’s great to be a community and fire together.”

The total firing process takes around 20-30 hours, which makes for a lot of time to sit around the fire and chat. 

This is when the three came up with the idea for the exhibition. One night while feeding the fire the artists began talking about the book “Women Who Run with the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. 

“We thought up the play on words ‘Women Who Run With the Wood’ as a good title for an exhibition of our work. (Then) we contacted the curator at the Sangre de Cristo Art Center and shared our idea for a show,” Hansen said.

Estés says on her website that she writes about “rich intercultural myths, fairy tales, and stories, many from her own family, in order to help women reconnect with the fierce, healthy, visionary attributes of this instinctual nature” in the novel, a theme that really spoke to the three artists. 

What began as a play on words quickly turned into a nine month process of firing and planning for the show. Hager said it was the creativity portrayed by the women in the book that pushed them to do the show. 

The three plan on adding more pieces to the exhibition for the summer show in La Veta, Colo. but until then the show will be on display until March 30.  

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