Meet Our Makers: Elena Renker

Posted by Trish Clark on

What I find the most fascinating to make are Japanese style tea and sake wares. They are objects of appreciation and contemplation, allowing a unique combination of functional and sculptural elements.

I have been focusing on making Shino glazed functional domestic wares. Shino is a traditional Japanese glaze made from local feldspar found in the Mino region that became very popular with the Zen tea masters of the 16th century for their ceremonial wares. Shino’s white and brown surface has been compared to the last traces of winter snow, with the promise of spring in the air. I first became drawn to shino when I was searching for a glaze to suit a particular pot. Once I started experimenting with this glaze I became fascinated with its compelling nature. The crazing, the pin-holding and crawling, all factors normally considered glaze defects are what give the shino glaze its special character. But it is the interaction between the clay, the glaze and the fire that makes this glaze such a challenge for me. Using the same clay and glaze in the same firing cycle can produce completely different results.

My bowls are either loosely wheel thrown or hand carved from a range of stoneware clays and then decorated with an iron slip in quick gestural movements. They are partially glazed in various shino style glazes and fired in my wood kiln for about 15 to 18 hours to 1300C.

In 2009 I built a wood fired kiln at my studio north of Auckland. I love the effect that the wood ash has on the shino glaze, the subtle colors and ash deposits. My primary wood is usually pine but in every firing I add one special ingredients to see what kind of ash it will produce, like pampas grass, cabbage tree leaves, lichen, pine cones or whatever else I can find in my area. Each one of these ingredients produces a distinctly different result. I never know what I will find when I open the kiln!

Browse Elena's work on artshop