Goshen-based potter Justin Rothshank carefully places hundreds of pots, vases, and clay dishware made by different potters into his large wood kiln. After 90 hours of firing – day and night – ash deposits onto the surface of the ceramics for decoration in a “natural ash glaze,” resulting in unique and beautiful creations. To Justin, the practice of wood firing relies on the shared labor of the pottery community. Justin grew up in Goshen among notable potters and learned from their examples including Marvin Bartel, Dick Lehman, the Unsicker Brothers, and others. Justin’s student of four years and now apprentice, Sadie Misiuk recognizes, “The wood fire community is very small, so it’s nice to have that common small community.”
Woodfired pottery technique thrives when there are more people practicing it and teaching others. “Multiple generations of working artists in a community are essential to the growth of that community,” Justin reflects. Following their apprenticeship, Sadie plans to open her own pottery business. In the world of pottery arts, the Michiana region has created a reputation for itself in part due to their community engagement and the aesthetic nuances that distinguish the local tradition of woodfired pottery.