`You have to give up total control to the flame'


March 27, 2002|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT'S HARD to believe that beauty can emerge from a trash can, but when Susan Wertheimer David pulls her pottery from the ashes inside an aluminum trash can, the results are exquisite.

Wertheimer David is a ceramics artist who lives in Harper's Choice with her husband, Alex David, and children Toby, 17, and Mira, 14. Both are students at Wilde Lake High School. Another daughter, Rachel, 20, is a student at Oberlin College in Ohio.

Wertheimer David started potting 20 years ago and was introduced by a friend to the ancient firing technique called Raku. After her first experience using the technique, Wertheimer David said, "I was absolutely hooked."

"The name Raku actually comes from a family of potters who practiced the technique in Japan about 400 years ago," she said.

To create a piece of Raku pottery, a glaze containing copper oxide or copper carbonate is applied to the pot and fired in a kiln at about 1,600 degrees Fahrenheit.

"You open the kiln, take the hot pots out with tongs and place them in a trash can that is lined with combustible materials such as hay, newspaper, leaves or even black walnut shavings. That ma- terial ignites, and then you put the lid on the can," Wertheimer David said.

She said the fire is forced to seek oxygen in the glaze chemicals. This process is known as reduction, and the trash cans serve as reduction chambers.

"Where the flame pulls out the oxygen, you're left with this thin layer of copper," Wertheimer David said. "Where it hasn't pulled out the oxygen completely, you're left with a whole range of colors."

She said one of the reasons she loves this method of firing her pottery is the sense of mystery involved.

"With Raku, you kind of lose control at the very last second," she said. "You can hope you're going to get certain results, but you don't know exactly how the fire is going to interact with the glaze. You have to give up total control to the flame. You can have this swirl of colors that no other firing technique can give you. When it works out well, it's just one of those very exciting things."

Wertheimer David will teach a Raku workshop at Columbia Art Center, beginning April 3. The cost of the class is $175 for Columbia residents and $185 for nonresidents.

Information: 410-730-0075.

Hard-working students

Brenda Thomas, principal at Wilde Lake Middle School, said the children there have been hard at work winning competitions and awards.

Eighth-grader Beth Wilson took first place in the middle school physics division at the science fair at Long Reach High School on March 2. Her topic, "Safe in the Sun," explored ways to protect the body from the harmful effects of the sun's rays.

Congratulations are also in order for Lea Harangozova, who won second place in the microbiology category; Rasa Ghaffarian, took second in plant biology; Sarah Jawed, finished second in environmental science; and Madelyn Finucane, was second in the mathematics category.

Beth also took first-place honors for her poem, "When the Sun Don't Shine," in a contest sponsored by the Southern Maryland International Reading Association.

Also this month, nine teams of youngsters from Wilde Lake Middle competed in the Black Saga competition at the school. Three of those teams qualified to compete at the state level.

First place went to the team of Raine Cunningham, Katrina Farmer and Xavier Salmon. Second-place team members were Parris Muse, Nana Owusu-Boaitey and Malcolm Stennet. Third place was won by the team of Kirsten Allen, Khadija El-Kharbibi and Adrienne Moser.

Although none of Wilde Lake's teams placed in the statewide competition held last weekend at the University of Maryland, College Park, Thomas said, "The kids put their heart and soul into the competition."

Josh Deutschmann, a sixth-grader at Wilde Lake, won the school's geography bee. Josh will compete in the Maryland State Geographic Bee next week.

"I'm just so proud of all of these students' achievements and the fact that they represent the rich diversity of our community. They're all such hard workers," Thomas said.

Strange names

Margrave Mews, Gray Owl Garth and Tinted Hill - Columbians are used to feeling a bit of embarrassment when reciting their street address for outsiders. On April 10, Barbara Kellner, manager of the Columbia Archives, will use the archive's databases to help residents separate fact from folklore about Columbia's street and neighborhood names.

Kellner said participants will be able to explore the origins of their streets' names and simulate the process used in naming those streets.

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Columbia Association headquarters on Wincopin Circle. The event is free; registration is not required.

Information: 410-715-3103.

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