Saturday 15 May 2021
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One Potter’s Hope

Pottery is the process of forming vessels and other objects with clay and other ceramic materials, which are fired to give them a hard, durable form. Major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain.

John Hunter has been in international missions with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) for 45 years. Currently he along with the love of his life Suzanne, live in Windhoek. The Hunters established and direct the “Foundation for African Christian Education” and “Teachers for Africa.”

Hunter travels all over the world teaching at churches, schools and mission conferences. He is a master potter with 50 years’ experience and weaves incredible teaching imagery right before your very eyes as he teaches from the scriptures while making pottery on his potter’s wheel. His unique gift of “hands on” teaching & speaking make for an eye-opening and unique ministry presentation.

The Hunters have been working in Windhoek for 22 years training teachers. In 2005 they established a primary school in Katutura. The school has grown and been very successful.
Community Hope School is a grade 1-7 elementary school for 120 students in the Damara Location. Many of the children at CHS are orphans who have been affected by the HIV epidemic.

“Empty Bowls” is an international project to fight hunger, personalised by artists and art organisations on a community level, to raise funds for local food charities and educate people around issues of poverty and hunger in their communities.

Empty Bowl events at exhibitions of Hunter’s pottery have been useful to promote Community Hope and share the need for quality education.
Hunter has personally produced over 5000 bowls at his studio with a Bailey Clay Extruder donated to him by Jim Bailey in the USA.

His unique way of forming bowls without a wheel has been a way of training local apprentices in production pottery and giving them the skills needed to be successful potters themselves.

Working with clay is Hunter’s way of life. He has been working with clay since 1968 after studying at Penland School of Crafts with Cynthia Bringle and other well known potters as well as ceramic artists such as Toshiko Takaezu, Bruno LaVerdiere, Jane Peiser among others. He launched his career at “The Pot Shop” in Venice Beach California, where he met master potter Ned Sloane.

Bringle’s, Takaezu’s and Sloane’s influence on Asian ceramic-style stuck while he developed a love for the simple, elegant work of Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach, still guides his work today.

While Hunter’s true passion is education and teacher training, working with clay is the centre of all he does. He has done workshops worldwide with his potter’s wheel, demonstrating throwing, glaze decoration and Sumi-e brushwork for potters in Southern Africa, Europe, Australia, the Middle East and North and South America.

Today he works out of his Brakwater studio, The Potter’s House, 20 kilometres North of Windhoek. He uses electric, gas and wood-fired kilns to finish his work. In 2017 at the Potter’s Association of Namibia’s Biennale II of his Elephant Mug Sculptures were awarded the Premiere Award and purchased by the Namibian Arts Association for their permanent collection. Hunter built a 50 cu. ft. wood fired, cross-draft, salt glaze kiln from 10 tons of magnesia bricks donated by Ohorongo Cement, at his home cum studio last year.

The construction was challenging because not only was it 3 times the size of his former Phoenix Fast Fire wood-fired kiln but all the bricks were perfectly square 198mm x 198mm but tapered to make a 3m or 6 m circle.

What should have been a two-month project turned into four months, as it was discovered that the original steel buttressing was not sufficient to hold the weight of the arch.

A redo was necessary and stronger steel angle iron and bracing top and bottom were added as well as adding another outer course to the walls of the kiln to add mass and protect the magnesia bricks from the rain because, when it does rain in Namibia it rains buckets.

A steel roof was added to cover the kiln and an extra high chimney eight meters tall was built to provide adequate natural draft considering the altitude being almost 1700m in Windhoek.

The 450mm walls of the kiln make it look larger than it really is and when fired it takes five days to cool. The arch stretches from the firebox wall to the back wall and chimney and has a span of 1800mm. The height is 1200mm and depth is 1120mm.

Says Hunter, “Firing a bespoke kiln for the first time is always a challenge and learning experience. After loading pots for two days, wadding and stacking each piece carefully to allow enough draft of the fire and fumes through the ware, the door was bricked up and thermocouples and cone pads places in strategic places.

Candling the kiln overnight with first two Ward gas burners and then adding a channel iron drip waste oil burner gets the kiln to 300 degrees celsius. Thats when wood firing commences.

The long day of stoking goes on to midnight when salting begins at 00:00.”

After his own experience, full of trial and error, Hunter plans to publish ‘a guide to kiln building for the complete idiot’ soon, with detailed instructions of what not to do!

The cross-draft kiln will be fired again in May.

Hunter packs up most of his pottery for sales in the USA and Europe each year as he and his wife travel and fundraise for the school. He lectures at churches and schools to find sponsors for his 120 learners in grades 1-7.

Hunter is a man passionate about his family, his wife, his students and his pots and is doing his bit to make the world a better place, one ceramic pot (and possibly kiln) at a time.

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