Out of the fire

Pottery exhibit at the Pearson Lakes Art Center

Clay, heat, smoke and air.

When combined in a pit fire the resulting ceramic pieces are truly one-of-a-kind.

And several are on display at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in the “Out of the Fire” exhibit.

Located in the Goodenow Gallery on the art center’s lower level, the exhibit runs through Feb. 26 and showcases all the pieces from a single pit firing done by Chad and Kiesha Dykstra, owners of Up in Smoke Pottery in Sioux Falls.

Even the final products that didn’t turn out quite as well.

“Essentially everything in this gallery comes from a single pit firing — the winners and successes and the failures, all in one show, so viewers get a chance to see what comes out of a pit firing,” said Danielle Clouse Gast, visual arts director at the art center.”

Any coloration on the pieces comes from a variety of factors.

Everything from the direction the pot faces in the pit, its depth and proximity to other pieces, as well as the amount of ash and smoke produced and exposed to each piece. It’s a very hands-on and old-school process.

“Together with my wife, we have spent several years researching primitive firing techniques and other potters’ modern-day interpretations. I was fascinated by the colors and designs achieved without glazes and began to experiment. We embraced the unpredictability and variations from piece to piece. Every firing is different, the method may be the same, but results do vary,” said Chad Dykstra in an artist’s statement for the exhibit.

And while Up in Smoke does have an 85 percent success rate in their pit fires, Clouse Gast said it’s a neat peek into the process for the visitor to be able to see pieces that broke apart right alongside their successful counterparts.

Visitors can also take home just about any of the pieces if it strikes their fancy.

“This is another show where all the pieces — expect for the casualties I think — are for sale,” Clouse Gast said. “The show has an earthy, monochromatic color palette and all the pieces live really well together in this space.”