September ArtHop at Clay Hand Studios: Using ancient Japanese techniques, Garrett Masterson unveils ceramics from his very own wood-fired kiln

In honor of September ArtHop, I’m finally able to debut the video of a studio tour that I actually filmed way back in December about the acclaimed ceramicist Garrett Masterson. My co-host, Joyce Aiken, and I spent a fascinating couple of hours with Masterson as he showed us his studio (attached to his Madera Ranchos home) and collection of kilns.

Masterson is the featured artist at Clay Hand Studios for ArtHop, the monthly open house of studios and galleries in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods. (The Fresno Arts Council website includes an updated list of venues.) Here’s the video:

When I made the video, Masterson was most excited about the wood-fired Anagama kiln he was building at the time on his property. This ancient type of kiln is fueled by firewood – lots of firewood, because the kiln burns so hot. The firing process creates a distinctive look for the pieces. There is a great amount of practice and artistry involved. Much depends on exactly where you place objects in the kiln. And because of the length of the firing time, which can take days, using the kiln can become a massive endeavor.

There’s something special about the fact he uses many of the same techniques that artists used in the fifth century.

He’d planned to show his work from the kiln earlier, but Covid and other issues got in the way.


Masterson has completed two firings in 2022. For the first time in public, he’ll be showing works from the firings for ArtHop.

“Displaying the creations is a very, very big moment,” says Nanette Manos of Clay Hand Studios.

Also included will be two works Masterson created using an Anagama kiln in Shigaraki, Japan, during a guest artist residency.

The artist has exhibited his ceramic art internationally and his work is included in the collections of museums in China and Japan. His works were included in the first and second volumes of “500 Figures in Clay” (Lark Books).

In the 23-minute video, I go into Masterson’s back story, including his fascination with Japanese pottery techniques. We see a timeline of his works and get a feel for his aesthetic. I hope you enjoy.

The exhibition runs through Sept. 30. Clay Hand Studios is located at 660 Van Ness Ave. After the ArtHop opening night reception, hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Other picks for ArtHop:

It’s a reunion! Some big names from the roster at Corridor 2122 — definitely one of the more forward-looking co-ops in the area — come together in September for a multidisciplinary show. The lineup includes William Raines, who writes: “We need to deal with some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time—the toxification of the earth, resource depletion, climate change—and ask the difficult question, ‘What can artists do?’ ” Artists are Leslie Patterson Batty, Aimee Dent, Stephen Dent, Max Hemnd Peter Janzen, Kirtley King, Chris Lopez and Laura Meyer.

Richard Harrison’s new exhibition at Spectrum Art Gallery includes a focus on flowers, which he had never paid much attention to previously. He writes: “After photographing irises for a week or so, until their flowery show dwindled, I started looking around the yard for more willing subjects. And there were plenty! It was at this time the beauty of ‘weeds’ took root.” The show also includes a section devoted to “The Travels of WoeBear,” described as “a loving, magical, odd little Dog who wandered about during the last plague digging up secrets of the Dog Universe.” Wild stuff!

At Fig Tree Gallery, Michael McDowell gets intellectual: “On any given day I typically find myself processing ideas pertaining to culture, history, religion, politics, sociology, psychology, emotions, the intellect, etc… I believe thinking about things is one of the most interesting facets of human existence. For me, the process of painting provides a vehicle to sort through this diverse material; it promotes a state of mind wherein I ask myself questions, consider concepts, grasp at the subconscious and grapple with the conscious. This rarely happens for me without the painting process.” His exhibition is titled “O-O, Omphalos, & Others.”

An exhibition from Larry Hill is always notable. His show at Jeffrey Scott Gallery is titled “Fulton Street Noir.” Sounds like this show is going to the dark side.

The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (1)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Oh my gosh, Donald. This is your best episode EVER! Taking into account my bias for loving you and Joyce and Garrett, deeply and sincerely, this is a masterful piece! Your onsite visit to the beautiful studio, the quality of prompts, the choice of background music, the opportunity to hear this man share his genius of both creative art and engineering, the stories of his experiences with illustrations, the serenity of visual and auditory tone – it all flows together like orchestrated music. Thank you! I learned so much and experience so much feeling. Over the top, Donald!!!


Leave a Reply