Becki Henderson-Gow of Red Salamander Pottery in her studio.

Red Salamander Pottery

FUNCTIONAL STONEWARE POTTERY

Becki Henderson-Gow, the creative force behind Red Salamander Pottery, has always had a strong desire to work in clay. She says the feel and movement of the clay in her hands provides a sense of freedom, and the forgiving nature of clay allows her to experiment and make changes mid-thought. She loves being able to start anew, again and again.

Becki taught art in the North Carolina public school system for over 25 years. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Dordt College and her Master of Arts in Education from Winthrop University. She continued her pottery education at the renowned Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN, the Shakerag Workshops in Sewanee, TN, and the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts in Asheville, NC.

Becki’s home studio is nestled in a little holler in Ashe County, North Carolina. She says, “I am surrounded by the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains and use the peaceful atmosphere this area provides to gather inspiration for my pottery. The colors, textures, and lines of this landscape strongly influence my work, often resulting in unique color combinations and patterns.”

Becki’s work consists of functional stoneware pottery; all of it is lead-free, food-safe, and able to withstand the rigors of the dishwasher. One of the distinguishing factors of Red Salamander Pottery is its Mocha diffusion surface decoration.

Mocha Diffusion

This intriguing method of surface decoration was initially developed and used in the southwest of England. The name is derived from the word Mecca, the center of the Muslim world in Saudi Arabia, where the finest moss agate gemstones are found. These gemstones have a veined pattern reminiscent of trees or ferns. The slow evolution is called dendritic formation, where acidic solutions, usually colored with manganese or iron, have permeated between layers of alkaline sedimentary rock. These patterns can take hundreds of years to develop.

Creating mocha diffusion on pottery is a much faster process. But as with the moss agate, the pattern is determined by the direction of the acid moving across the alkaline surface. The process is accomplished here using apple cider vinegar with a colorant that is dropped or brushed onto the alkaline slip. When the two elements meet, they spread and flow across the surface, creating a unique design that recalls elements of nature. It is not possible to control the direction of the acid mixture as it etches a distinctive pattern within the slip. That means no two patterns are alike.

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