John Benn & Colleen Gallagher

On beautifully forested Harstine Island in Puget Sound in Washington State, John Benn and Colleen Gallagher make pottery and architectural tiles by hand. They have built a two-chambered woodkiln and a wood-fired salt kiln. The sometimes difficult quest for elusive ash-glazed and vapor-flashed clay surfaces demands hard work, long hours and a willingness to be a partner to the fire.
In a converted boatbuilding workshop on Harstine Island in Puget Sound, John Benn and Colleen Gallagher make woodfired pottery and sculptural tiles. They dig several local stoneware clays and fire their wood kilns longer and hotter than is considered wise.
John and Colleen have been professional potters for 37 years. Their work has won awards in the US and internationally and can be seen in private collections, museums and public art projects.
John Benn built his first wood kiln in 1976. He studied with F. Carleton Ball and Ken Stevens at the U. of Puget Sound in Tacoma, and with Howard Shapiro and Sandra Simon in the MFA Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Colleen Gallagher studied ceramics with Ka Kwong Hui at Rutgers University and studio art in the MFA Program at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She earned her MFA from the University of Puget Sound, where she met John.
“The compulsive and inefficient nature of the woodfire process connectsus closely to the earth. We dig local clays. We fire using trees from our forest.We submit the work to our kilns to be reborn as a permanent object that recordsthe touch of our hands and the fire and ash that have transformed it.We control choices of clays, shapes, glazes, kiln structure, type ofwood, stacking method, duration and temperature of the firing. But we mustalso give up control to violent forces of nature. The wood kiln is not a tamebeast. It gives us accidents and blessings. We find beauty in imperfection.Our commitment to woodfiring is obsessive and non-intellectual.We discover our pots in addition to creating them.”

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