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Randy O'Brien

A full time potter for over 20 years, Randy O'Brien began working with clay while he was a student at the University of California at Berkeley. He moved to Santa Cruz, California in 1984 to study with ceramic artist and educator Al Johnsen. Randy's love for the wilderness and adventure led him to move to Alaska in the late 1980's. He established a pottery studio in Homer creating and selling functional, stoneware pottery with glazes inspired by the glacial fields and mountains of Kachemak bay. Always an experimenter, he returned to art school in the mid 90's earning a BFA at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. While a student at Alfred, he focused on the development of special effect, low fire glazes. He began developing his current body of work in the year 2000. Inspired by the mineral formations, mudflats and lichens of southern Arizona he developed a three dimensional glaze surface that mimics the aesthetic of a naturally occurring material. His glaze surface is composed mostly of volcanic ash and metallic oxides. All of his pieces are created with a passion and love of clay.


The surface on my ceramic pieces is created from several layers of original glazes. Before the first firing, I spray each piece with a black engobe (vitreous slip). It is then fired to approximately 2100 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bulk of the surface is the crawl glaze and is applied over a 2 to 3 week period. It is so named because the glaze 'crawls' across the surface during the firing and results in the dramatic cracks and fissures. The crawl glaze is mostly volcanic ash and metallic oxides. It is basically man-made obsidian.

After the surface has been built up sufficiently with the crawl glaze, the piece is sprayed with one to three different combinations of metallic oxides and/or ceramic colorants. It is then fired to approximately 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. It is during this final firing that the glaze shrinks more than the clay. This creates the cracked, mudflat-like appearance.

I am very interested in glaze chemistry and have done thousands of glaze tests to develop my glaze palette. The unusual effects I achieve can often be attributed to the use of materials that are not available from most ceramic supply businesses. I get these materials from industrial mineral companies.

I take my inspiration from the natural world. I attempt to recreate the texture and brilliance of color found in mosses, lichens, and mineral formations.