The work was wheel thrown and hand burnished, and the handle is a curly willow design. The vary9ing patterns on the jar are creatd by Saggar firing, described above ("Curly Nature Jar" para. 1).
Her "Ceramic Vase" is a thirteen-inch hand throwjn porcelain vase fired using the Saggar technique, the method that combines the traditions of North American pit firing with the simplicity of the Japanese aesthetic.
The work has two layers. The first is the soft, satin surface resulting from an ancient process called burnishing, and the vase was burnished in the "leather hard" stage with a river stone. The method uses slow, steady rubbing to unify the clay particles and to compress them. As this is done, the smallest particles rise to the surface and create a tight sheen that resembles a matt glaze. After burnishing, the ceramic vase is bisque fired and prepared for the saggar kiln. The second layer comes from the saggar firing of this ceramic vase, which is wrapped in a variety of organic material, such as sawdust, grasses, hay, corn husk, seaweed, and wire. No glaze is brushed or applied to the surface of the vessel, so the natural materials work together in the alchemic firing process, some to provide combustion, some to provide mineral content.
As the saggar kiln heats up, the materials burn away so that a soft vapor fume appears on the surface of the ceramic vessel. Before the firing, the vessel started off white, which is the color of porcelain, and after the firing, the surface is smoky. Saggar fired ceramic vases are not water tight and are not designed to hold water, but the soft, warm colors provide a beautiful natural surface that blends nicely into any home ("Ceramic Vase" paras. 1-4).
McMahon has made a number of Saggar fired works, such as the one below:
After the firing, these ceramics are cooled and the pottery cleaned. Many times the lid receives a wild vine handle, inspired by Japanese ceramic traditions of combining clay and wood. These wooden handles are attached to the lid using glass beads underneath in an elaborate jewelry design. This final layer is McMahon's special contribution to the design and offers one more surprise for the owner ("Saggar Fired Ceramics" para. 6).
McMahon also produces clay art in the form of fine porcelain carved vases, all made by hand, such as the one below called "Bustin' Loose."
She forms each clay vessel on the potter's wheel, attending to the shape and how the carving will work with the form. In some cases, long narrow cylinders are a perfect canvas for the dancing figures, while at other times, full, round forms are best to embody these celebratory women. Once the shape is achieved, each vessel is brushed with an engobe, or a colored clay slip. This helps create the striking difference between the figure and the energetic lines. McMahon's imagery and design craft are then drawn on the surface of the "leather hard" vessel and deeply outlined, and the artist removes clay from the surface of the pot in a carving process that creates energy with lines and beveled edges by use of a sculpting tool. This carving process can take anywhere from 8 to 18 hours per piece, depending on the complexity of the form and the number of figures inter-relating on it. When the general carving is complete, hours may be spent to clean the lines, soften the edges, and complete the vessel to make it an aesthetic decorative design:
These carved clay art vessels are the result of intense studio time, focused creativity and a deep love & celebration of the female form, from the inside out. They are smoke fired in Brenda's Saggar kiln and waxed. They are not designed to hold water. ("Bustin' Loose" para. 5).
Another product of Blue Moon Clay Studios is handmade ceramic pottery, such as these works:
Of course, all of the work at the studio is handmade pottery, with the main tools being the hands of the potter and the potter's wheel ("Handmade Pottery" para. 1). Two more examples are seen in the "Large Gaea Urn and Wild Nature Jar," with glass beads beneath the lid of the urn.
The works produced by McMahon are inventive and varied, with designs that are often created by the Saggar process itself rather than through the conscious action of the artist, though this does not make them any less artful.
Biography." Brenda McMahon Blue Moon Clay Studio (2008). April 26, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/famous_ceramic_artist/brenda_mcmahon.html.
Brenda McMahon." Blue Moon Clay Gallery (2008). April 23, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/.
Brenda McMahon." The Artful Home (2008). April 24, 2008. http://www.guild.com/gs/brenda-mcmahon.shtml.
Bustin' Loose. Brenda McMahon Blue Moon Clay Studio (2008). April 25, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/ceramic_art/clay_art.html.
Ceramic Vase." Brenda McMahon Blue Moon Clay Studio (2008). April 25, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/ceramic_art/ceramic_vase.html.
Curly Nature Jar." The Artful Home (2008). April 23, 2008. https://www.guild.com/artitem/39419.html.
Handmade Pottery." The Artful Home (2008). April 23, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/pottery_art/handmade_pottery.html.
Munsterberg, Hugo. The Ceramic Art of Japan: A Handbook for Collectors. Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle Publishing, 1964.
Press Release." Open Studios of Washington County, NY (15 July 2005). http://www.openstudioswashingtoncounty.com/MEDIA/Press%20Release%205_15_07.htm.
Saggar Fired Ceramics." The Artful Home (2008). April 23, 2008. http://www.bluemoonclay.com/ceramic_art/saggar_fired_ceramics.html.