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A picture of Ryan Lee

Ryan Lee

Bread baker, potter

in baker, potter

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Ryan Lee, a bread baker and a potter recently relocated to Harstine Island, WA. Choosing an appropriate name for the project has been a constant struggle but right now I call it bakerpotter. I plan to build a little homestead wood fired bakery this winter but I'm currently focusing most of my attention on making pottery.

I like to make simple functional pots that folks will use everyday and that never go out of style. There's a certain satisfaction in the pursuit of these crafts - both are incredibly simple and nourishing, but in their simplicity there is an incredible margin for variation. I've embraced the wild and natural elements in both crafts and have actively rejected technology that would narrow this margin for variation. I plan to spend my life pursuing an ideal and hope I never find it.

What hardware do you use?

I'll focus on the pottery project. I use a rusty old Brent potter's wheel from the late 1970's - it's a little rough but it was cheap and works. When throwing pots I use a piece of wire, a sponge, some thin pieces of wood for shaping and sometimes calipers. I fire everything in two stages, I use a Skutt Electric Kiln for bisque firing and a bespoke gas kiln for glaze firing. The gas kiln consists of the shell of a broken electric kiln with a few holes cut into it, a burner bolted on and a few propane tanks that I keep in a hot water bath to prevent them from freezing.

And what software?

Clay... Get it? Software? I can't resist a bad pun. Feldspar, silica, dry clay, and lately wood ash are some of the materials that go into making glazes. Oh, and I would have to say the firing schedule. I fire all of my work to around 2300 degrees with a reduction cooling cycle. By starving the fire of oxygen you can force it to pull available oxygen molecules from other chemical bonds in the clay and glaze, essentially changing the molecular structure and more importantly creating interesting colors and textures. I built a website with Squarespace and use Wave the keep the money right.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm very fortunate, I have a dedicated space and in the past several months have been making pottery full time in a beautiful place. That being said, heat and insulation in my workshop! I recently took over our living room because I couldn't work in the cold any longer. A quiet potter's wheel would be a dream - mine is so loud I have to crank the volume if I want to listen to anything while I work. A pugmill for recycling clay; doing it all by hand is really hard on the body.

I could also really use a larger kiln that could be fired with wood or gas or both. Wood adds a whole new set of variables to the firing process, I'd like to take that on.