SwampFire Retreat for Artists and Writers


6th annual retreat, 14-16 June 2013

The site of the 6th annual retreat was Steve Smith's studio at 4 Corners Gallery.
Potter and Professor Emeritus of Art at Defiance College, Smith has provided space for SwampFire for the past three years. His studio mates, Rebecca Graves and Jennifer Creighton, helped the writers work with clay . . . and Rebecca made dough for kiln-fired pizza.

Visit Steve Smith's 4 Corners Gallery: Studio and Pottery

Go to photos of the Saturday pottery-workshop session

View a recent article about the studio and its workshop


SwampFire 2013 reflections . . .


Melissa Dey Hasbrook

In Reality

My words fail
I need a new language
For sleeping dreams are real
As are waking dreams
And I have three eyes
Not two

I see time and space
Through and around
They are not mirrors
Reflecting images
They are prisms
Refracting light

And each angle is real
As is each dream
As is each vision
Of each eye
Of which there are three
Not two

While I didn't write this poem at SwampFire, I did bring it along for the weekend. And the symbol of the third eye strikes me as apt for what I experience at this gathering. In coming together, we link our disparate lives for a moment, and yield a great wealth of insight and potential. Artists and writers expand our imaginations with such exchanges, and they are vital to evolve our creative experiments.
~~MDH dey of the phoenix.com


Dawn Comer

Keep moving. This is not a staying place.

In my head, these words when I awoke the morning of SwampFire's first day. These words––permission-giving words. So I came to SwampFire this year feeling a deep and unexpected peace both within and beyond myself. Coming with no expectation, I have been able to rest, be restored, just be.

I have taken naps and gone on walks, talked late into the night with one friend and early in the morning with another. Finished a story and called it good. Ate chicken and asparagus cooked over an open fire. Brushed mugs with resist instead of carving into them––an old way of doing things, a new way for me.

All that really matters must be lived through the senses. Warm kiln bricks and wood smoke. Gentle rain and cool breezes. The sight of a dear friend tidying up the dishes and the touch of a keyboard. The taste of mulberries. The sound of fire igniting cardboard.

Keep moving. This is not a staying place.

But first, SwampFire. Grateful for all that this retreat has been over the years, for all that it continues to be.
~~Dawn Comer


Alex Friedman

SwampFire––an opportunity
to pick the minds of accomplished friends,
to see some new birds,
to eat rustic food,
and to write.





Rachel Baker

SwampFire 2013

This is the sixth annual SwampFire event, and I've attended all but year #2––and they have all been unique, but with some things in common: friends, writing, reading, laughter, fires and pots.





Mary Catherine Harper

Potter’s Retreat, Poet’s Ground

The lure of swamp fire and promise
of a land edging west of every god,

where the fat heads of winter wheat sit on
stalks grown thick enough to withstand
any late spring hailstorm of Ohio,

where I pitch my tent on Indiana ground,
swept clean of stones, and hear the echo
that rain makes when it hits a shale outcrop,

where the offspring of last summer’s
dragonflies emerge by the dozens to guide
would-be potters up a hill to a beehive kiln,

where words that buzz loose in the mouth
are given over to the clay that made the world,

where the wood burning in the campfire
reminds me of why I want to live forever.


Jennifer Creighton

Having never participated in SwampFire until it was brought to the studio, I have found the whole process/experience to be a bit unnerving and interesting at the same time.

I tend to be a loner and quite private, except around a chosen few. So the idea of having a group of (albeit wonderful) people outside my door had me wondering how I would respond. But really, I enjoyed having the retreat here, and being able to join, stand at the perimeter and observe, or leave at my choosing.

Decorating the pots, something I rarely do in my own production work, was quite enjoyable. Then working with my studio partners, Steve and Rebecca, to fire the smoking kiln for the first time was challenging and fun . . . Even though I ended up just being around for moral support.

And while I enjoy the solitude of our place at the lake, falling asleep last night to the sounds of a fire crackling outside and the sounds of multiple leisurely conversations, I had to admit I was glad SwampFire had come my way, and am looking forward to the experience next year.
~~Jennifer Creighton


Rebecca Graves

Gathering ingredients at the grocery and throwing terracotta cups, I prepared for the first firing of the smoking kiln Steve built out back.

Different perspectives on our three-dimensional work, from the perspective of a writer, poet, storyteller, sparks my imagination. I have learned to look forward to the retreat to see the studio and process through fresh eyes.

Last night I pulled all the ingredients out to make pizza dough for today. The comfort of the kitchen a returning rhythm as I measure ingredients, knead dough and prep for today's kiln feast. Soft strains of Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk accompany me.

It is intriguing to watch as pots are decorated with each writer's personal vision. Anticipation of the kiln's results, as yet untried, is an exciting break in our routine. Sitting against the retainer wall next to the kiln, I listen to snippets and fragments of conversations around me as I wait for the smoke to alter the pots.

Whatever the results, I am sure the evening will be an adventure as always. My stomach growls. My fingers are itching to knead the dough for pizzas. Every day here is always an adventure, without fail a story is waiting to be discovered.

After all, it's all about the story.


Steve Smith

I have been so busy at the studio lately, my big pre-SwampFire was cleaning the studio. I made so much more space now. I was glad I cleaned off the grading couch out of my office, it became the perfect space for Dawn. The only writing I did was the night before, I wrote a small poem after watching an Anthony Hopkins film. It was good to see so much activity in my usually solitary space.




Rachel Baker, poet, and Steve Smith, potter, at Friday's opening discussion


Dawn Comer, fiction writer, and Melissa Hasbrook, mixed media artist


Smith and Rebecca Graves, clay-based artist


The first evening's fire


Alex Friedman, fiction writer, at the evening fire with Baker and Comer


Into the night . . . Hasbrook presents her thoughts


On a Saturday morning walk . . . just like the cranes


Mary Catherine Harper, poet, slices a mango for Saturday lunch


Afternoon at the local farmer's market


View photos of the Saturday session: painting resist on pots
and smoking them in the Mayan kiln at 4 Corners Gallery

Return to Top
Go to Saturday Session Photos

Link for group members:

update info