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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Brenda McMahon

Bill DeYoung



Wednesday’s edition of The Catalyst Sessions got technical – if only briefly – as Gulfport ceramic artist Brenda McMahon talked us through the process she uses to create her delicate, shimmering vessels and pots. McMahon’s technique is called saggar firing.

“With my work,” she explained, “I throw the vessel on the potter’s wheel. And the first thing you’ll notice is I hand-polish each pot with a stone. So it looks like polished stone; it’s actually polished clay. So it’s very, very smooth.”

The next step is burnishing.

“The pieces are fired the first time and they’re white, because it’s a white clay body, a porcelain clay body, then they go in my saggar kiln – which is basically a big clay pot in a kiln. And they’re wrapped with grasses and seaweed and sawdust and rope and wire, and they’re smoked in there for about eight hours.”

She also describes how she creates her multi-dimensional, segmented wall paintings.

There’s much more explanation, but you’ll have to watch the video to hear it. There are photos, too, of the work McMahon is talking about.

It’s a fun conversation. The former New York broadcast journalist has been a Gulfport resident for 13 years; the Brenda McMahon Gallery, on Beach Boulevard, opened in the spring of 2019 (she conducted Wednesday’s interview from the gallery, and gave us a short tour).

You’ll want to hear McMahon’s charming story about the day she discovered Gulfport, completely by accident, and instantly fell in love with the city.

She is the founder and organizer of the Gulfport Art Jones tour, which she hopes will return before 2020 is over.

Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Karla Hartley, artistic director of Tampa’s Stageworks Theatre.

Streaming at 7 p.m. weekdays on the Catalyst Facebook page. All Catalyst Sessions are archived on our YouTube page.



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