Decatur Potter Explores Discipline of Form and Magic of Fire

Engineering background informs artist's clay works

Decatur artist Mike Yarnold will be the first to tell you that his day job as a mechanical engineer has a profound effect on his art.

“Clay is unforgiving,” said Yarnold. “It helps to understand that certain shapes will fall down unless they’re structured properly.” Visualizing objects in three dimensions and understanding design and
the principles of physics is part of his occupation.

The formality and structure of engineering paired with the organic unpredictability of clay and fire can easily be seen in both bodies of his work. Porcelain teapots perfectly shaped into pure white orbs with tiny dots of color stand next to dark, shiny raku vessels splashed with iridescent turquoise and copper glazes.

His porcelain work has an aura of perfection. “Pure forms are beautiful
in and of themselves,” Yarnold said. “Clean lines give a sense of peace, balance and order that to me is very important.”

On the other hand, “what’s great about raku is the mystery of it,” he said. It’s very unpredictable. You never know what you’re going to get.”

Yarnold took his first pottery lessons in high school. Later in his last semester of college at the University of Minnesota, he took a class with the well known potter Mark Pharis and “loved it.”

After graduating and moving to Houston, Texas he spent much of his leisure time learning ceramics and experimenting with his art for the next five years.

When he moved to Atlanta three years ago, he discovered MudFire Clayworks, a pottery studio right outside Avondale Estates.
After trying the studio for a month, it wasn't long before he decided to sign on for the year.

Yarnold enjoys the camaraderie with other artists and the workshops at MudFire. Both have helped him grow artistically. “I like talking to other artists, getting inspiration from their work and the sense of community there.”

When MudFire co-owner Luba Sharapan suggested he enter a piece of his in a competition to appear in a book about the art of raku, he took her advice. His work was chosen out of 2,100 submissions from around the world to appear in the 2011 spring edition of “500 Raku.”  

Another honor came his way this spring when one of his pieces was chosen for the Decatur Arts Festival Fine Arts Exhibit.

Although his day job takes much of his time, Yarnold writes in his blog that his heart is always with the pottery he’s been creating for the last 11 years. You can see Yarnold’s work at MudFire where he creates and shows his work.

How Raku pots are fired

After a bisque (low) firing, the pot is glazed in stages using wax
so that certain areas remain bare clay. The pot is then fired in a gas kiln and removed when red hot and immediately placed in a reduction chamber with combustible material such as paper. The smoke from the burning paper blackens the areas of bare clay.

Art Shots 

Academy Intern’s Summer Shorts Extravaganza, Academy Theatre, 119 Center St. July 9, 10, 11. Atlanta
Playwrights show off their new shorts at the Academy Theatre. Short plays from 5 to more than 20 minutes. Drama, comedy, monkeys, tragedy, and puppets. Tickets
are $5. www.academytheatre.org.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical
through July 16, Onstage Atlanta, 2597 N. Decatur Rd. New tenant Pippi, the stripper comes between the Dr. Phil-loving, agoraphobic Jeannie and her toll booth collector husband the storm begins to brew.

The AV Cab, July 16, 8 to 10 p.m. A night
of wine tasting and theatre presented by Avondale Playhouse and The Little Wine Shop, 100 N. Avondale Rd. Sample two varieties of cabernet and enjoy the musical talents of Angela Holley and Vivian Slade accompanied by keyboardist David Reeb. The duo will present comedy and musical theatre with jazz standards and songs
from your favorite musicals. $15 person or $25 couple.

Box City Architectural and History Camp, July 18-22, 9 a.m. to noon. Children 9-14 years. In conjunction with Decatur Active Living, campers learn architecture, urban planning and history while creating their own box city. Experts in the field of architectural history and city planning plus exploration of the city of Decatur provide a fun week with lots of creative opportunities. Decatur Active Living Playbook. www.beactivedecatur.wordpress.com.

“Off the Cuff. On the Fly,” The Seen Gallery,
415 Church St. is sponsoring a cell phone photography contest. Anyone is eligible to enter, anywhere in the world. Photos must be taken with a cell phone camera and be at a resolution of at least 600 x 840. Deadline for entries is Sept. 1. Photos chosen will be displayed at the Atlanta Celebrates Photography Exhibit in October. For more details visit: www.theseengallery.com  


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