All Fired Up: Spotlight on Ron Cook

Ron Cook, Alliance Gallery’s featured member artist for October, creates freeform and wheel-thrown pieces of pottery, all fired in his hand-built, brick-based, propane-fired kiln. This 5’ deep, 6’ tall kiln can hold 100 - 200 pieces in one firing. When he moved from Quincy to a 100-acre property in Liberty, Illinois, he took his kiln with him—brick-by-dismantled-brick. It took him a year and a half to add the studio to the house, and dismantle and reconstruct his kiln. During that time, he continued to throw pots on his wheel and create freeform pieces, carefully storing them for future firings.

Not to his surprise, the glazes reacted differently in the new Liberty location. “The air flow will be slightly different,” he explains. “The glaze works differently. It may take 3-4 test firings.” With over 40 years of experience with his kilns, he knows that even the air itself is part of the beauty in creating a pot … or vase, plate, cup, or bowl.

A firing takes a total of three days: one devoted to the actual firing, and two to cooling. He admits, “I have potter’s impatience.” Every kiln comes with a spy hole to check the temperature, but he also uses his to take potter’s peeks. Risking the cold air rushing in, he checks his work—always hoping he hasn’t placed a hot pot right next to his peekaboo.

Every potter carries a part of themselves into that wet moldable to-be-glazed clay. Starting in 1982 earning a degree in fine arts and business administration from Coe College in Iowa, Ron slowly found himself drawn to the world of pottery, which eventually became a business: Mill Creek Pottery. His pieces carry a quiet satisfying organic quality. It feels as though you are sitting in the woods on a still day with sun shining through the leaves—they have that kind of quiet energy.

An opening reception will be held Saturday, October 8th, from 5:00 until 8:00 PM. A piece of Ron Cook’s pottery will be given away in a free drawing held at 6:00. This reception coincides with Hannibal’s Second Saturday Gallery Night.