Art(ist) Work - Craig McMillin
June 17, 2019
Art(ist) Work Series
Craig McMillin - Studio McMillin
When I decided to start working on this Art(ist) Work series, one of the first names on my list of artists was Craig McMillin. I have one of his pieces on a table next to my front door. So, I see it a few times a day. I love the piece since it's beautiful! But, it also means a lot to me since I actually won it for finishing 3rd place overall in a local 39-mile trail race. When I was planning on reaching out to him to see if he would be interested in doing a photo shoot with me, I ran into him at the 50th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) where he’s had a booth there for approximately 20 years. He agreed to do the shoot and we scheduled it to occur about a month later.
How did Craig start creating his artwork? Craig was enrolled at the University of Houston but he really wanted to do art. So, he left school early and responded to a job listing he found in an industry magazine. Without an art background, he learned on the job while he worked for a company in Texas doing production pottery. In 1991, he opened his own studio, Mud Flap Pottery, in Folsom, Louisiana. He is still there today but renamed his studio to Studio McMillin.
We spent about two and a half hours together. We started with a tour of his studio and he educated me on the process he goes through to create his art pieces. Going into the shoot, all I knew was what a finished product looked like. At the end of the tour and education, I learned terms such as wedging, throwing, and bisque firing.
Craig mentioned that for the longest time he only used one type of clay for his pieces. These days, he uses a mix of two clays - porcelain and white stone. The clays he uses come prepped and ready to go where he only needs to wedge the clays. He mentioned you need to wedge the clay to remove air bubbles, make it more pliably, and to have a uniform consistency.
Currently, he’s mainly creating plates and bowls ranging as small as 15 inches in diameter to as large as 54 inches! He does not make many of the 54-inch pieces but he does a significant number of 48-inch ones. His biggest seller is the 20-inch plates and bowls. He creates pieces in series. Therefore, the time it takes to create one finished piece can take from a few weeks to as long as a few months depending on upcoming shows he will be attending. He has three kilns – two small ones and a very large one. The large kiln is 5-foot wide x 5-foot high x 6-foot deep. He can fit four to five large plates in the big kiln.
He sat at the pottery wheel and started throwing clay. He created two 20 to 24-inch pieces. He typically lets the pieces dry naturally before he starts to warp the sides and add dimples to his likening. He used blow torches to expedite the drying process so I could see the next step firsthand. After he manipulated the pieces, he placed rolled plastic sheets under the plate so they would not continue to droop should the piece still be too wet.
He emptied one of his smaller kilns from his last firing and showed me a few finished pieces. The large kiln was empty but we will be having a second photoshoot later this summer so I can capture some images as he is either loading or unloading the large kiln.
Working with Craig, we captured a couple of images I had in my head leading up to the photoshoot. For this shoot, I wanted the photos to have dramatic lighting. Some images used natural lighting, but the photos were processed so the naturally lit images closely matched the style of the images where I used my 400w strobe.
The equipment I used at this the photo shoot were as follows:
• Canon 5D Mark IV
• Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 Art Lens
• Elinchrom ELB-400 with a Quadra Pro head and an 18cm reflector. I also have a Quadra HS head but I did not use it since there was no need for Hi-Sync in the low light indoor environment.
• Elinchrom EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus
• 7” to 11” soft white diffuser sock on the 18cm reflector
• Avenger Aluminum Light Stand 35 (A0035B)
• The ELB-400 battery pack was attached to the light stand using Pro Media Gear’s Aluminum Cage (BELB400) and Light Stand Mount (BLBP2). This allows me to move the light stand with ELB-400 battery pack mounted.
• The studio had two types of light bulbs installed - daylight and tungsten. I brought CTO gels with me to use on my strobe, but I did not use them. After taking a few test shots, I liked the look and feel the studio had with the mixed colors.
Visit the photo gallery to see all images captured during the session:
You can find Craig McMillin at:
Facebook: Studio Mcmillin