Open Forum

As part of the 3rd European Conference of Wood-Firing, the Ceramics Association of La Borne, which is organising the event, is proposing to hold open forums, so that speakers can present their work, their creations and their experiences relating to wood-firing.


Programme for the open forums:

Tuesday 28 August 10 – 10.30 am
Christophe Lemarchand: History of the wood firing kilns in La Borne


Tuesday 28 August 10.45 – 11.15 am
Coll Minogue

Coll Minogue is co-editor and co-publisher of The Log Book international wood-fired ceramics journal, which she founded with her husband Robert Sanderson in 2000.

She has been a professional potter since 1982 to 2000, having previously taught ceramics in third level education. In 1985 she established a studio in Perthshire, Scotland and designed and built a wood-fired Bourry-box type kiln. For the following fifteen years she was a professional independent studio potter, producing wood-fired utilitarian stoneware, as well as sculptural forms.

She has led workshops and presented papers at ceramics conferences worldwide and she is the author of two further books on ceramics.

Coll is a founder member of the International Ceramic Magazine Editors Association (ICMEA), in 2004.


She has been researching different aspects of woodfiring – historical, traditional and contemporary since 1989. One area of research that is of particular interest to me is that of early women woodfirers – the pioneers in the twentieth century.

It is in this context that Coll propose to discuss the work of the Australian potter Gwyn Hanssen Pigott (1935–2013) who began woodfiring in the 1950s and spent some seven years in a studio in Acheres, not far from La Borne, from the mid-1960s until the early 1970s. She was involved in woodfiring throughout her career. Coll participated in the last firing that she carried out, at her studio in Queensland, Australia, in May 2013.

On an international level Hanssen Pigott gained most recognition for the still life assemblages, inspired by the work of the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964), that she created during the last twenty-five years of her career.


Tuesday 28 August 11.30-12.00
Emile Desmedt and Ludovic Recchia

In the mid-1990s, the Belgian ceramist-sculptor Emile Desmedt was confronted with the difficulty of firing large pieces of work.

He decided to design kilns according to his desires. It was then that he decided to make his first large woodfired work. The first ones were lost. On the other hand, in 2006 and in 2015, he conducts particularly remarkable experiments which were concluded by the realization of monumental kiln-sculptures. The first is still visible on the site of Chercq lime kilns near Tournai, the second at Keramis – Centre of Ceramics in La Louvière. These sculptures were woodfired. Unlike many experiments of this type that give random, ephemeral and rarely interesting results from an aesthetic point of view, Emile Desmedt has developed a technique allowing the production of “perfect” and durable pieces since holds the highest temperatures for an extended period. The presentation consists of a short overview on the artist and a short film, in presence of the artist.

Tuesday 28 August 2.30 – 3 pm

Frederick Olsen: “Casting technique for the making of a-typical shaped kilns”

Frederick Olsen is a California-based ceramist who studied Fine Arts at the University of Southern California before joining the Kyoto City College of Fine Arts in 1961.
Passionate about the architecture of ceramic kilns, he has studied and built them all around the world. In 2015 he built the “OLSEN kiln” at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre at La Borne, of which the design has since then been copied or used as inspiration at several workshops in and around La Borne.

Frederick Olsen will present the casting technique applied to make kilns of a-typical forms that would be very difficult to construct using bricks. He’ll compare the cost and the time spent between a conventional construction and a casting construction as well as the durability of arches built by both techniques. The examples used for the presentation are both small and very large kilns.


Tuesday 28 August 3.15 – 3.45 pm
Julia Nema

Julia Nema PhD ceramic artist from Budapest, the author of the book: Fired Up High: Approaches to Wood Fired Ceramics (2013), the first and only book on wood-fired ceramics in Hungary. Her studio is the only ceramic workshop in her country using a high-temperature, wood-fired kiln for regular production.


She will talk about how she discovered inspiring links between her primarily European constructivist background and the transparent, direct and raw nature of wood-fire aesthetics. She found a fundamental analogy between photogram, the most elementary form of photography, and wood-fired ceramics on high temperature. Image, surface, pattern and object are created by an effect of wood-firing which Julia Nema have termed pyrogram. In her sculptural works, firing porcelain in a wood kiln feels like working in a darkroom, so she develops three dimensional pictures on fire sensitive ceramics.


Tuesday 28 August 4 – 4.30 pm
Ben Richardson: “the revolution is on the table” or how the Art of the Table in restaurants can help a recognition and attraction for wood-fired ceramics.

Ben was born in Hobart, Tasmania, in 1951 and was awarded a B.Commerce degree in 1972 at the University of Tasmania. From 1978 to 1981 he studied ceramics at the School of Art in Hobart and completed a Master of Art, Design and Environment degree in 2004.

He has studied wood-fired kiln building and firing techniques in Japan and in 2004 was invited to participate in an international woodfiring workshop and conference in the United States, with his work selected for a juried international woodfiring exhibition.


He has been designing and making his distinctive works for over twenty years after being introduced to woodfiring techniques by renowned potters Les Blakebrough and Gwyn Hanssen-Pigott. A woodfiring workshop conducted by Hanssen-Pigott just before she left Tasmania in 1980 gave him the stimulus to commit to working with local materials and firing with wood. He has maintained this commitment to an aesthetic based on indigenous materials by digging and preparing his own clay and grinding his own glaze materials. This processing provides the foundation for creating glazes and surfaces that convey both a way of thinking and a strong connection to the place of making. His work has a strong organic presence and an integrity of shape and form, surface and texture.

Wednesday 29 August 10-10.30 am
Cornelius Colliander: “Presentation of an interdisciplinary project”

Cornelius Colliander MA (philosophy) is a finnish ceramist and potter. He specialises in woodfiring ceramics, gives lectures and classes and promotes woodfiring amongst other potters of his region. The paper he will present is about a project were ceramists, scientists and students from the department of chemsitry from the university of Aabo Akademi meet and discuss the artistic goals and scientific processes involved in woodfiring ceramics. The project is in its third year and presents amongs others interesting and new pedagogic challenges.


Wenesday 29 August 10.45 – 11.15 am
Francine Mava Sau  “The place of ceramics in Congolese society”

Francine Mava Sau is a professor of ceramics at the Academy of Fine Arts of Kinshasa, graduated with a master’s degree in art conservation in the tropics.
After attending the wood firing and raku seminar in Kinshasa in 2003, led by Anne Marie Kelecom, Francine Mava Sau multiplied her study trips and meetings in Benin, Togo, China and Belgium to promote Congolese ceramics and discover other techniques.
Françine Mava Sau is one of the great specialists and defender of contemporary Congolese ceramics.



Wednesday 29 August 11.30-12 am
Claude Aussage: “New developments in wood firing in Russia”

Claude Aussage is physicist, master at INSEAD, and specialist in the construction of wood kilns. Claude has built kilns in Russia, Georgia, Denmark, France, and Latvia. Driven by the sharing and exchanging of knowledge, he founded the Terra Incognita Association which, among other things, allowed the Franco-Russian meetings during the Grand Feux at La Borne in the autumn of 2017.

His ceramic work is best known by his sandstone pilgrims made in workshops all over the world, during his worldwide travels.

Traditionally, wood was used to fire ceramics in Russia and recently, some artists use low-temperature woodfiring kilns (1200 ° max). Since 2011, Claude has been involved in new projects revolving around the construction of high temperature woodfiring kilns, offering new horizons for local and foreign artists.



Wednesday 29 August 3.15 – 3.45 pm
Allen Broc:  “So, you want to build a wood kiln?” Reflect on what you think and believe you know about woodfiring.

Allen Broc is a woodfiring ceramist in the forests of northern Wisconsin. He fires an Anagama kiln of 14 m3 which he built ten years ago. A firing lasts 100 to 120 hours and consumes 58 m3 of wood. Allen recently had the opportunity to travel to Russia and Belarus for symposiums and to interact with many artists. He will go to Japan next November.

Allen Broc presented a study of the influence of Asia on ceramics workshops in the USA after 1950 as well as an overview on the work of Peter Voulkos. He is currently preparing an overview on Don Reitz and Paul Soldner.


Thursday 30 August 10 – 10.30 am
Esther Martinez and François Lerat: “Wood firing serving modern art” at Jacqueline and Jean Lerat.

Jean-François Lerat was born in La Borne in 1946, a village to which he remains deeply attached. After training as a forestry engineer, his career concentrated on the development of the timber industry and the protection of the environment. He specifically supports ceramists who fire at high temperatures. He undertook the writing of the catalog centered around the work of Jacqueline and Jean Lerat, who used the clays of La Borne to make woodfired ceramics all their life.

After studying art history and philosophy in Spain, Esther Martinez teaches at the University of Le Havre in France. At the School of Architecture of Normandy, she discovered a passion for construction. In 2000, after meeting the ceramist Jacqueline Lerat, she decided to put her communication skills at the service of nature and ceramics. She was one of the initiators of the year JJLERAT 2018.

The development of the work of Jacqueline and Jean Lerat was based on an innovative woodfired kiln built in La Borne for Paul Beyer, based on plans of the factory of Sèvres. Jean Lerat’s mastery of wood firing has led to innovative use of materials.
The presentation will be based on the evolution of a selection of works. The focus will be in particular on the effect of the flames on the clay landscapes, and how the effects are emphasized with oxides.
The firing with wood can lead to different research approaches related to modern sculpture.


Thursday 30 August 10.45 – 11.15 am
Mary Ann Steggles

Mary Ann Steggles is Professor of Ceramic History and Ceramics at the School of Art, University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg.  Alongside her teaching, she curate, research and write on the history of wood firing and contemporary ceramics in Canada for various ceramics journals. She is working on a research project about the silencing of women ceramists and the marginalization of both women and ceramics in the world of contemporary art.


Her talk will focus on the marginalization of women within the world of wood fired ceramics.  In Japan, women are not allowed to fire the large wood kilns.  In Canada, the world of wood firing is dominated by a male view.  Historically, men have been the only visiting wood fire artists, their stories are predominant in the publications, even attempts to build a smaller kiln become controversial because the students see through male eyes.  The kiln has to be ever bigger, firing even longer, consuming more wood to get layer upon layer of fly ash on the surface.  Mary Ann students are women.  It is time they had women role models.  What are the experiences of other women wood firers?  and how can we create an aesthetic that counters that of this male view?







The oral submissions will last around 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of debate with the public.

There will be photos and video support alongside the submissions.



Suggestions for subjects to be discussed must be sent by e-mail, not exceeding one page, to:

The selection and programming is arranged by the organisers’ team who inform the candidates of the outcome.