American Wood Fired Potter Shawn O'Connor on the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast

This week on the Tales of a Red Clay Rambler Podcast I have an interview with American ceramic artist Shawn O'Connor. Specializing in wood firing O'Connor uses flame and ash patterns to produce rich surfaces that emulate river rocks and rusted steel. He has a MFA from Syracuse University and has been a resident at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Art and the Arrowmont School for Craft.

As well as enjoying Shawn's work I like his writing about family dinning and wood firing. Writing about his work he states, "My home growing up was strongly focused around the family. Family dinners were important and rarely missed growing up. My extended family gathered quite often for social events such as birthdays and holidays that always revolved around food. I would like to extend this sense of comfort and warmth through my work to others who use it."

"Firing with wood also came with my upbringing. I was raised in a rural Maine home that was heated with a wood stove during the cold winter months. This meant that the fire was constantly being fed in order to heat the house. This required a lot of work and attentiveness to the fire. Preparing a winter's worth of wood required many days of hauling, splitting, and stacking. This process was instilled in my life from an early age. I have always found the physical labor, the rhythm, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with this process enjoyable."

In the interview we talk about the influence of family dinning on the desire to make functional ceramics, accessibility in contemporary art, and developing a unique wood fire aesthetic. To see more of O'Connor's work you can visit his website by clicking here. You can also find more about his work through the galleries that carry his work Akar Design, Red Lodge Clay Center, and The Clay Studio.

To subscribe to the Red Clay Rambler podcast on iTunes please click here. You can also stream the latest episode on the new podcast tab for the site. Click here to listen.

Shawn uses small scale saggar firing to create localized flashing on his pieces. You can see the yunomi's wadded above small saggars in the picture above. He also has been using clay baffles to create specific patterns on his pots. In the image above the flame will pass through the trifecta of perforated rectangles to leave a mark on the pot's surface. To find out more about Shawn's firing process check out his article In Search of My Mark in Ceramics Technical No. 33 pg 87 – 91.

Cycles of the moon plate set.


  1. I love Shawn's work. We have some pieces of his at Mudfire and they are just a joy to hold.

    1. Hello Lori, Shawn is a great potter. I am glad I got to meet him while he was in Shanghai. Hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

  2. Amazing - that cup is to die for - that's how I would like my wood fired pieces to end up! Great idea of the partial cutout baffles - will have to try that.

    1. I was blown away by the flashing on his pieces. His understanding of the flame and his control of flashing is pretty amazing. I hope his techniques work well for you in your kiln. Have a good week.