JoVic Pottery, Open Year-Round

Our studio, JoVic Pottery, is open pretty much all year. During the cold post-Christmas month, we do slow down, and that was especially true this past winter when we were walloped by snow storm after snow storm and cold temperatures we haven’t seen here in many decades.

Crawl or Alligator Glazed Bowl
Alligator Rim on Deep Blue Soup Bowl

But today I can tell you that production is back up, and there are lots of wonderful mugs, bowls, vases, dinnerware items, wine cups, tea pots, lidded vessels and of course Acrylic Abstract paintings practically singing in the sunshine.

Vic got into the studio even during that cold weather (despite our involvement with the Ladysmith Little Theatre and our roles in Absolutely (perhaps), he managed three dinnerware orders.

He’s also developed some exciting new ideas for dinnerware which uses the fantastic crawl glaze approach relying on multiple firings to make the glazes beautiful and durable while providing exciting texture and stunning beauty.

Blue Dinner Plate, Alligator Glazed Rim
Teal Blue Dinner with Crawl Glaze Rim
Deep Green Alligator Rim Plate

The sample images were taken with my cellphone and may not be as beautiful as the work itself. We hope visitors to our studio will take the time to see, touch and enjoy our exceptional stoneware dinnerware and artistic as well as functional pottery. There are also some amazing abstract paintings by Josee Duffhues on display.

Another Successful Studio Tour at JoVic Pottery

We’re so glad to have seen so many of our annual visitors returning again during the Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans’ Christmas Tour. This 4-day event is always fun, and a little exhausting. We spend lots of time cleaning the studio, and setting it up to give it just the right spirit. It’s worth the effort, and it’s even more wonderful when it is as successful as it was again this year. It is truly great to know that the beautiful stoneware pottery we love to make will become treasured Christmas gifts for some, while others could not resist treating themselves with some of our art.

We want to thank all our visitors, and also all the new customers that found us for the first time. We wish you the best of the season and a truly fantastic 2017.

I’m proud to say one of my favourite paintings also sold today.

Untitled, Acrylic on Gallery Canvas, by Josee Duffhues 30" x 40" $1000.
Untitled, Acrylic on Gallery Canvas, by Josee Duffhues 30″ x 40″ SOLD

Josee’s Abstract Acrylic Art

JoVic Pottery and the French Connection, Exchanging Workshops

It’s been a little while since I’ve found time for this website. But we’ve been working overtime since our trip to France this past Spring. A former apprentice of ours operates his pottery studio in Bretagne, l’atelier Terre précieuse, and we enjoyed a trip that allowed exchange workshops with Olivier Ruaud and Alice Urien Ruaud.

Vic using alcohol reduction in Bretagne
Vic using alcohol reduction in Bretagne

Alice and Olivier enjoy producing the variety of their work using Raku firing techniques–in truth a process that we have given up.

Horsehair Raku
Horsehair Raku

However, after putting in more than 20 years with this technique, we had a lot to share, from using Ferric Chloride to spraying pots with alcohol to bring out the copper highlights, through to using horse-hair and feathers on hot pots.

Copper Reduction
Copper Reduction

Olivier and Alice have a beautiful studio in what might arguably be one of the most beautiful provinces in France. Their specialty is “naked raku” which relies on a white slip that cracks and allows amazing images of smoked lines on their work. In addition, they use colorful commercial glazes in concert with this naked process.

We truly enjoyed learning some of Alice’s throwing techniques, and since coming home, we’ve enjoyed creating some items that have derived from her process. It’s truly wonderful to know that we can share our skills while continuing to develop our own.

Acrylic Painting by Josée Duffhues

Josée’s Acrylic Paintings

After years of making sculptural and functional pottery and only painting for my personal pleasure, I’ve made an unexpected step forward. Working with acrylics on gallery canvas, I’ve set myself free with abstracts. Please click on any of the images to see a larger version.

These are just some of the paintings I’ve created over the past few months and I’m delighted with sales to date. Some are still available.

Active Member Canadian Federation of Artists
Active Member Canadian Federation of Artists

JoVic Pottery and the Cedar & Yellow Point Artisans

Party Glasses from the Jolda Gallery
Party Glasses from the Jolda Gallery

JoVic Pottery has been part of the Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans Association since 1995. This phenomenal group of artists and artisans truly add special interest to the Cedar and Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island. Situated between Ladysmith and Nanaimo, we’re all truly easy to find.

Claudia Lohmann painting, Lohmann Gallery and Gift Shop
Claudia Lohmann painting, Lohmann Gallery and Gift Shop

We offer an annual Christmas tour each November, but we also have studios that remain open to the public year-round. Because of this, we also haven an annual Artisan Trail brochure enabling visitors to find our studios and discover the beauty around us which inspires so much of our work. This brochure, part of the Tourism Nanaimo program not only features the Artisan Trail, but includes hiking and walking trails, farms and fields, and dining and lodging for visitors to the area.

Glass Art from Honeysuckle Gift
Glass Art from Honeysuckle Gift Cottage

This summer, as part of our outreach, we’re also taking turns participating in the wonderful Cedar Farmers’ Market. It’s a terrific market offering local arts and crafts, organic produce, bath and beauty products, plants and flowers, and even artisan cheeses as well as dairy products and meats.

Each of the links provided here will help direct visitors to much of what the area has to offer. Of course we truly hope your visit will include a stop at our studio. It’s not just a great pottery, but we have a super wonderful property with lovely trees and plants. Be sure to come and enjoy the scent of the honeysuckle soon. It’s fantastic.

Honeysuckle in Bloom at JoVic Pottery
Honeysuckle in Bloom at JoVic Pottery

 

Ladysmith Spring Art Tour with JoVic Pottery

Vase 21" tall with a gorgeous bouquet to gild it
Vase 21″ tall with a gorgeous bouquet to gild it

The Ladysmith Spring Art Tour is set to start on April 24, 2015. It will run from 10 – 4 pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Our own studio, JoVic Pottery, is open until 5:00 pm. Use this wonderful opportunity by taking the self-guided tour  to meet the artists in your neighborhood. Pottery, Glass, Printmaking, Painting, Hand hooked rugs, and so much more. You can also head to the tour Facebook page for more information and some images of the kind of work you’ll be seeing on the tour.

There are loads of beautiful new pots at our studio here in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, including the always collectible Mocha and Crawl or Alligator glazed mugs.

Ginger Jar by Vic Duffhues Micro-crystalline & Ash Glazes $175
Ginger Jar by Vic Duffhues
Micro-crystalline & Ash Glazes

There are wonderful vases, lidded vessels, teapots, and so much more freshly coming from the kiln today and tomorrow. Be sure to stop by, making it a special weekend, checking out the lovely gardens filled with beautiful rhododendron blooms, apple blossom, dogwood blossom, azaleas and more. Yes, come celebrate spring with us.

Feel free to wander the garden, the studio and our showroom. Meanwhile, we’ll do our best to ask for sunny days while you travel our beautiful area.

Crawl-Glazed Vase with Blue interior $250
Crawl-Glazed Vase with Blue interior $250

 

Inspiration for JoVic Pottery in the Garden

Many potters will talk about the inspiration of previous master potters when it comes to the direction of their own work. They follow the examples set by such notable masters as Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie and others who have had tremendous impact on the development of the modern potters following in their footsteps. But there are also potters who live in surroundings that inspire their lives and their work. We count our blessings to be among these.

White Camellia Blossoms
White Camellia Blossoms

We have also relied on the masters to hone our skills over the past 35 years, but we find that nature continuously offers us a palette that finds its way into much of what we create here at JoVic Pottery. We borrow from it to add beauty to our glazes and the textures of our work.

We have the amazing fortune of working and living in one of the most beautiful areas of British Columbia on Vancouver Island. In fact, we could say that it’s our honest belief that we live in the best part of Canada. With its temperate climate, spring always comes early to our island, erupting with colors and birdsong each new day, and constantly bringing new delight. From the red current blossoms so favored by hummingbirds, to the rhododendrons with their massive blooms, our garden brings joy.

Our studio is on our property, a 3-acre parcel which has a small creek running through and alongside of it. A wonderful right of way on one side provides tall trees that aid in creating a tranquil space, and our front yard boasts a circle of giant trees that within their midst offer respite from the heat in summer, as well as providing a contemplative oasis that practically hides us from the world. The boaters who come to Page Point Inn especially enjoy this area as a break from bright summer days, and we’re just a two-minute walk from their marina.

We are always happy to welcome visitors to our studio and property. And many of our visitors, especially those who don’t have the fortune of making their home here in the Ladysmith area, find delight in taking the time to wander through and enjoy both nature and our clay garden ornaments.  Come and see for yourself–we’ll welcome you.

 

Glazing Excitement for Vic Duffhues of JoVic Pottery

Vic Duffhues (JoVic Pottery, Ladysmith BC) has added a few more spray guns to his collection, making the options for creating greater depth and color on his final work much more fun, and definitely more interesting.

Cleaning and checking a glazed rim
Cleaning and checking a glazed rim

Each application is allowed to dry carefully before another application takes place, but in this particular approach, with less glaze being applied in the way it is sprayed, the waiting time is not extreme as it is with multiple dipped applications.

This vase gets a thumbs up...
This vase gets a thumbs up…

He’s clearly enjoying the work with this series of teapots and vases on the previously bisqued ware.

A variety of sprayed glazes on teapots
A variety of sprayed glazes on teapots

It will be fun to see the final results and I’ll be sure to post more pictures.

Bisqued Teapot being glazed
Bisqued Teapot being glazed

 

 

Garden City Potters at JoVic Pottery

We always love to teach and share some of our techniques with other potters, particularly those coming to our studio in Ladysmith BC, on Vancouver Island  via a guild appointment for a seminar, workshop or simply to see some demonstrations.

We truly enjoyed a recent visit from the Victoria, Vancouver Island potters of the Garden City Guild. Their pleasure throughout the day was more than evident. Lots of great questions made their delight and appreciation clear.

In particular, these potters loved learning about some of our “tools” invented to make our work easier. Vic Duffhues demonstrated wheel-throwing, waxing, trimming, handling techniques and more, showing these potters how he makes goblets, mugs, pansy rings, teapot lids and soap pumps. They also loved the clay art tiles in our kitchen and bathroom, and loved the garden sculptures by Jo Duffhues.

One of the best things about doing these workshops is that we always feel renewed ourselves. Excitement is contagious. We know these potters will go home to, as Pete Pinnell once wisely said: “imitate, assimilate and then innovate.”

We wish them all the best success with their own pottery and clay art and hope they will make a few return visits to JoVic Pottery in the years to follow.

Jo and Vic Duffhues
Jo and Vic Duffhues

 

Mocha Diffusion Mugs

Mocha Diffusion–Magic Landscape Pottery

Mocha Diffusion is a very special technique: a process that is almost magical to watch because of the very rapid way that landscapes are formed in front of your eyes.

Whenever visitors come to the studio here at JoVic Pottery, and we have the time to engage with them and show them a few things, a mocha demonstration is often at the top of the list.

Achieving success with the process on pottery often proves very difficult. Everything has to be just right for things to work. The pots need to be almost bone dry. At that stage they will rapidly absorb the slip applied. This slip is quite alkaline. The introduction of an acid can be shown by the addition of colorants to a tea made with boiled pipe tobacco.

Drying Mocha Greenware 1
Mocha Landscape Mugs Drying

If the pots are too dry, the slip just forms ugly blotches and runs. If the pots are too wet, the slip stay wet too long and the “trees” grow well beyond our desired needs right over the edges of the rims. It’s a Goldilocks process, so if the pots are just right, we can quickly make landscape strokes and add a little extra tea in those spots where we’d like a tree to “grow.” We really have a very short window in which to do this decoration and pure concentration is required, as well as a planned approach.

Mugs and Tumblers with Mocha Landscapes Ready to Fire
Mugs and Tumblers with Mocha Landscapes Ready to Fire

But for our visitors, we have a delightful solution consisting of a piece of plastic that we dip into the slip bucket. The slip stays wet, of course, but almost always works to demonstrate the technique. We watch the trees grow and continue this growth demonstrating not only the wonder of dendrite at work, but also explaining how continued moisture is undesirable on our actual work.

White background mocha mugs
Finished Mocha Mugs with White Slip Background

Vic Duffhues has been using this technique for many decades. Yet even with all that experience, he’s not always guaranteed the results he’d like. Now he chooses to exercise this form of decoration only in the early spring, when drying conditions are most easily controlled. The result is that we never have enough mocha pieces and there is always a demand by collectors.

They truly are gorgeous mugs and tumblers and we joke that these are the fastest growing trees in British Columbia.

Layering Glazes at JoVic Pottery

 

I once heard an elderly potter say “if I don’t like what I’m getting, I just fire it again.” That was not easy before potters began to fire pottery in electric kilns. In fact, those extra firings often resulted in pots for the yard, if not the garbage can.

Disappointing Glaze #1
Disappointing Twisted Sister # 1 at Mature Temperature

Firing pottery at Cone 6 in an electric kiln (in oxidation) wasn’t exciting in the past either. Potters often frowned upon the results, and those with gas or wood-fired kilns which make use of oxygen reduction to bring out the beauty of their glazes swore they would never switch to oxidation. You just could not get a lot of great color development unless you were using commercial glazes–or so it was believed. How could you get that great variation in glazes on your pots if you didn’t have the magic of the reduction fired atmosphere which helped add variety and depth and interest on just a single pot?

Refired Twisted Sister # 1
Delightful Result with Re-Fired Vase 1 “Twisted Sister”

But potters love to invent, whether it’s a new tool for their use in the studio, or a new glaze to put on their beloved pots. It seems much of the fun comes from experimenting. While there are still lots of potters quickly dipping their ware in buckets of glaze (and it’s admittedly much less expensive with so little waste), many of us are also using spray booths. This requires a good safe space to work with phenomenal ventilation. It also results in lots of waste of glaze chemicals. The upside, however, is that it enables a very even coating of glaze without the dreaded unintended drips marring the final surface finish.

Not that drips aren’t sometimes desired. But for a potter to be truly happy or excited, those drips need to be placed in such a way as to enhance the work. And since we’re firing in oxidation, and we’re spraying the glazes, well then why not look for ways to enhance color and texture by spraying different glazes onto a pot.

Bad Glaze Vase 2
Disappointing Vase #2 at Mature Temperature

Yes, there’s a lot of experimenting, and not just a few disappointments to contend with along the way. Each glaze causes reactions within the heat of that kiln, and some of those reactions aren’t just to the heat, but to the different glazes introduced.

Twisted Sister # 2 Beauty
Gorgeous Re-Fired Twisted Sister # 2

But back to the original statement, about firing again; it is now not just to salvage failure, we re-fire with intent. We increase the number of firings in order to bring about results we could not otherwise have with the typical bisque followed by one glaze fire. We don’t just add the exciting variety that potters formerly achieved with gas or wood-fired kilns: we have taken that to brand new heights. We don’t have to spray a pot evenly with just one color, we can use bits here and there, spraying gently, choosing a heavier application here and lighter one there.

After our initial bisque firing, we fire glazed pots at lower temperatures to ensure that the glazes adhere or you might say that they are baked on, usually at cone 04 somewhere in the neighborhood of 1900 ° F. Sometimes we add more glazes and again fire at that low temperature before finally firing our pots to maturity (or to a stoneware state)  at Cone 6, approximately 2200 ° F.  Some pots may have 3, 4, or even 5 firings before we decide they’re finished and ready to sell.

For a final finish, some of our pots are treated to a crawl glaze application, and this, too, is comical when we think about the former “taboo” of having a glaze crawl on our pottery.

Bisque Fire Glaze Load
Loading a Low Temp Fire in Electric Kiln

With electric oxidation firing, we can play to our heart’s content. We can introduce and generally control the crawl so that it enhances our work. And that’s true for our ash glaze applications as well. Ash glazes tend to run, but instead of worrying about the runs, we carefully introduce them just where we know they are likely to bring about some incredible beauty. The pots that in ages past relied on wood ash to create their glazes, well, I guess we’ve experimented and found ways of using them in an electric oxidation atmosphere.

Crawl Glazed Urn
Crawl Glaze Control on Beautiful Lidded Vessel

And just like that elderly potter, we’re happy to believe that we can even re-fire a pot that had previously reached stoneware maturity.

Wine Entertainment Set

JoVic Pottery’s Latest Kiln Delights

This last kiln load had us both smiling with glee. There are some gorgeous functional pieces, like the wine bricks and the tall stemmed goblets with crawl glaze decoration that take function to art and are absolutely perfect for entertaining special guests.

Crystalline & Layered Ash Glaze Bricks
Wine Bricks, Utensil Holders, or Vases–so functional, so decorative

Crystalline layered glazes with final ash glaze layers (Mt. St. Helen’s Ash actually), and fabulous tenmoku liner glazes on the interior which make the wine bricks not only functional, but allow them to become decorative vases or utensil holders.

Lidded Vessel with Ash Glazes
A beautiful Ginger Jar or Urn in Spring Shades $250.

And how delightful are large ginger jars with beautiful lids?

Urn with lid off
Lids are fired separately so that the rim of the pot is glazed too.

Should you want to use this beautiful jar as a vase, you might enjoy setting the lovely lid slightly to the front and side to give it an extra wow appearance.

Mt. St. Helen's Ash Lidded Pot
lidded pot with slip-combed decoration and layered glazes $125.

Also fresh from the kiln are two lovely lidded pots, again glazed with Mt. St. Helen’s ash layered over crystalline glazes. The similarity of these pieces comes from the skill of glaze applications–but slight tweaking of the process ensures that though the pots are alike, they remain unique.

Ash Glazed Lidded Jar
perhaps a perfect tea canister… $125.

Note the wonderful slip application–a treatment put onto the pots when they’re just slightly stiffened. Combing through the slip adds texture to the shoulders of the pots and also aids the “breaking” of glazes showing up color beneath the layers.

Vase in Blue and Green
Slip-Combed & Ash Glazed in Blues and Greens $125.

And the last vase here is a delight to hold and would be wonderful displayed with or without flowers. It, too, shows the benefit of slip-combed decoration which adds depth and texture. Engobes and crystalline glazes, sprayed over a period of several days to allow sufficient drying between applications adds so much visually and texturally. Come visit our studio in Ladysmith, BC on Vancouver Island to enjoy not only looking at, but touching and collecting work that brings art to function and function to art.

 

The Joy and Disappointments Unloading Kilns

Opening Kiln, top shelf
First sight on opening looks good

Anticipation is always exciting for us here at JoVic Pottery, however, it’s also a little bit nerve-wracking. How will things turn out in this firing? We do our very best to continue to develop glazes, always pushing limits. We also continue to use those glazes we think of as tested, tried, and true, especially some of the layered glazes we so love.

Spherical Vessel
Ash and Crystalline Glazed Vessel

No matter how often we use some of these glazes, the results are never fully guaranteed. Electric kiln firings are more easily controlled now than ever before in the history of pottery, and the variety of glaze approaches available in mid-range oxidation makes the process truly exciting. We use computer controlled kilns, giving us the ability to carefully control the firing time and even some of the time we allow kilns to “soak” at a specific temperature.

Stacked kiln shelves
Stacked shelves invite a peek

But even with such controls, the firings have a way of leading to both disappointment and joy. Some pots come out of the final glaze fire giving us just what we were hoping for, some exceed those hopes, and yet others appear with unexpected flaws.

Alligator Ginger Jar with Rim Spatter
Slight rim contamination on an otherwise perfect lidded pot

The kiln furniture attests to some of the surprises thrown our way (and I do mean thrown, pitched, or perhaps spit). We find evidence on shelves that suddenly require grinding because crawl glaze spitting occurred during the firing and the bits of glaze hitting shelves has fused onto them.

glaze spit on kiln shelf
Kiln shelf with glaze spatter

We’re even more disappointed when the spitting affects nearby pottery–turning a winner into a second and affecting the bottom line when it comes to earning a living from our work. This is an added risk when we’re using layer upon layer of glaze and adding crawl glaze texture for a final firing. In other words, we’ve already spent tons of time getting the pots to this final firing, and have put in the energy, literally as well as physically, into as many as 2 or 3 previous firings.

butter dish
Note the little fired in blotch on a butter dish base

We’re experienced. We’ve been at this work for over 35 years. But that doesn’t matter in the least when it comes to the occasional failures in the final product. We get to load beautiful pieces into our kiln, knowing the quality of our work is truly awesome, but sometimes we still end up unloading a pot that just hasn’t made it to the level we’re seeking.

Unloading Lovely Pot
Vic and Ash Glazed Lidded Pot

Whether some spitting hits an interior or the beautiful rim on the base of a pot, it’s still disappointing. It’s just a good thing that the majority of what we pull from the kiln makes us feel blessed to continue our work. We’re thrilled to say there’s always something to strive toward; because as long as there is a goal ahead, we’ll want to keep working, and for potters who won’t likely ever earn a great retirement package, that’s a really good thing.

 

Patience and Pottery Cycles

Vic shaping a pitcher on the wheel
Vic shaping a pitcher on the wheel

There are so many things that provide artists with fairly quick results; photography, some styles of painting, drawing…. It does not take too long before these artists know whether or not they’ve achieved their desired results.

2015-02-11 12.47.47
Squeezing a neck and spout into the pitcher

Of course there are many other arts that require patience, and that’s certainly true for pottery. Even so-called rapid fire methods, like raku, still require time and patience.

Making a Spout
Beginning to Form the Spout

With stoneware pottery waiting for the final results can be a very slow process. From mixing and preparing clay, through creating with clay, drying it, adding engobes or slips, drying a little more, adding handles or knobs or spouts, and drying a little more.

Pitcher Throat
Forming the throat of a spout.

Bisque firing the work, and hoping you’ve dried it enough to prevent warping or cracks from appearing, or engobes flaking off.

Finishing the Details
Finishing the Details

Adding dipped, poured, or sprayed layers of glazes. Drying the pottery again. Oh yes, and drying a full day between the layers to ensure that each glaze is completely dry before another layer is added.

Rack with pottery drying
Pots drying… waiting for trimming, handles and more

Possible firing another bisque, but this time with glazes on the work.

Handled Pitchers Drying
Handled Pitchers Drying

Waxing the pottery in places where you don’t want further glazes to adhere, especially the bases of the pots that stand on shelves in the kiln.

A Sweet Handled Pitcher
A Sweet Handled Pitcher

Applying additional glazes, and then waiting for these to dry before carefully loading the kiln for that all important final glaze temperature firing.

Trimmed Pots and Orders Drying
Trimmed Pots and Orders Drying

Of course it’s important to try to maximize the work coming out of a kiln. That means waiting until you have assorted sized items to take advantage of the space available. Yes, tons of waiting between every step.

Throwing a pitcher
Carefully Loaded Kiln

Once you’ve gone through all these steps you’ve probably been waiting anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 months for some of those special pots to make it to the shelves in your showroom. In fact, you sometimes wait so long you can’t remember what you were hoping to see. Maybe the waiting is a good thing; after all, every time you unload a glaze firing, you’re surprised, and while not every surprise is wonderful, you’re always excited and sometimes blissfully happy.

Unloading a Glaze Fire
Ah yes, time to unload the kiln. Say “ooooh.”

 

Pottery-A Slow Process

Jan 2015 wheel throwing
Vic at the wheel

The making of quality stoneware pottery, whether functional or decorative, is far from a rapid process. Aside from clay preparation, pots made require careful drying before they can even be put through their first bisque fire.  But just the making is a time consuming thing, especially for large vases that are thrown in two stages.

Two-Piece Altered Vase by Vic Duffhues
Careful finishing of joined, altered vase by Vic Duffhues

Getting the neck onto the base requires careful joining; after all, if the pot is not put together correctly, the neck would come free of the vase. Careful smoothing and finishing is needed.

Potter's Wheel with Vic
Inspired Creativity

Then there’s a process that allows us to get some color onto the pieces before a first firing–of course not until the pieces are bone dry. We often spray the work with engobes, or brush on slip.

Kiln Load with Bisque-Glazed Pots
A Bisqued Load of Partially Glazed Pots

Once the pottery is again bone dry, we’re able to place the work into the kiln for a first firing. We bring them up slowly and cool slowly as well to avoid any potential cracking or warping through this cycle.

JoVic Partially Glazed & Fired Vases
Some Vases With Initial Fired-On Glazes

The cooled pots then need waxing before we can glaze. If we didn’t wax the bottoms the pottery would end up stuck to the kiln shelves.

JoVic Wax Station
Hot Wax Set-up with Exhaust

Once the waxing is finished, we can get on with the work of glazing. This is frequently a slow process because we tend to use multiple glazes and each coat must be completely dry before we add a next layer. Bisqued pottery is still somewhat porous, and the water base of the glazes is absorbed into the work, requiring careful and total drying between each step.

Waxed Mug
Hot Waxed Base

Some of our pottery is actually put through a few low temperature firings. This ensures that the first layers of glaze are fired on, allowing us to handle the pottery without smudging or accidentally removing some of the glazes. Though the glazes in this case have not reached a mature melt, they are stable enough to handle.

Bisque-Glazed Platter and Lidded Vessels
Kiln with Bisque-Glazed Platter and Lidded Vessels to Unload

Fired on glazes really help with some of our more complicated glaze applications. Crawl glazes, for instance, cannot be applied to glazes unless they have already been fired on at a lower temperature. By their very nature, as reticulating glazes, they would pull up any immature glazes they were placed on and instead of an attractive crawl, exposing lovely sub-surface colors or glazes, they’d end up exposing some terrible peeling effect that exposed clay.

Crawl Glaze Drying on Stoneware Platter
Glaze Drying in Bowl of Platter with Waxed-Over Glaze Rim

Each kiln load has us looking forward to seeing whether what we envision at the start of making our work actually lives up to our hopes.

Vic glazing Vase
Preparing to Glaze a Vase

With the glazes applied, the final drying begins.

Glazed Vases Ready to Fire
Glazed and Drying in advance of Firing

Once we’re sure the pots are dry, we can carefully load the kiln. Great care must be taken with vertical vases that have crawl glazes applied near the base.

Kiln loading at JoVic Pottery
Stacking the kiln for a final glaze firing

A slight bump and the glaze will fall off the pot, potentially leaving bare spots where they might not be desired, and also fusing to expensive kiln shelves or other kiln furniture.

Cone 6 Firing Ready to go
A Nicely Loaded Kiln Ready to Fire

Some of the final results pleased Jo Duffhues immensely–not so Vic. He’ll likely take the vases he’s not thrilled with and apply additional glazes for yet another re-fire.

Stoneware Vase
Vic’s not happy with this?

I have to remind him that some of our customers love the pieces that he is not excited about at all. The trouble is that when we work we have an idea of the outcome we’re seeking, and if things don’t turn out that way, we tend to think it’s a failure. It’s very hard to get past that kind of negative response. But since I love these pieces, I think they’re a great success.

Stoneware Vase Feb 2015
Multi-Glazed Stoneware Vase

Yes, these are the vases that Vic is seen making in the images above. Now it’s just a question of who wins the argument–will they be fired once again?

 

The Difficulty of Shooting Pottery Pictures

We consider ourselves potters; however, since we can’t afford to spend a great deal of money on professional photography, we also need to be capable of shooting our pots in order to post them on our website, use the images to send to clients, or to send them to galleries and shows to be judged.

Studio photo set up
In Studio Photo Set-up

Like so many of our peers, we struggle to create the best images we can. We have set up a photo “booth” in our studio. We have lighting and a very good camera, but as our granddaughter might say: “the struggle is real.” We occasionally see an incredible picture of someone’s work, and though we know it to be good, we also recognize that the photo has elevated it to great. Pots in pictures can only tell part of the story. Touching, lifting, and a close examination of the work is needed to complete anyone’s judgment.

Blue Ash Ginger Jar $250
Gray Scale Photo Backdrop Blue Ash Glazed Ginger Jar $250.

Some glazes lend themselves to photography, particularly if they enjoy a matt surface. Others, especially those that have lustres or shiny translucent glazes present even professional photographers with a significant challenge.

Inside shot of ginger jar
Ginger Jar automatic focus indoor shot… no flash used

One of our most beautiful ginger jars, complete with multiple layers of glaze and an ash glaze to grace the shoulders of this lidded vessel, came out of the kiln presenting just such a challenge. We recognize the fact that for us, taking pictures of this beautiful lidded vessel has proven more than difficult. Nothing we did actually does this work justice. Take a look for yourselves, and if you have any suggestions, please send them our way. Of course, as always, we invite you to come to our studio to have a look and feel for yourself.

Blue Ginger Jar with Ash Glaze outside
Outdoor, natural light, Blue Ginger Jar

Glaze Chemistry and Testing to Create New Art

One of the things we love about being artists as well as artisans and also potters (and yes, the distinction is deliberate) is the fact that we are able to continue to experiment with a vision to always improving all our work. Our studio is not limited to work that creates art for art’s sake. We also create functional stoneware, and by its nature, this means a certain amount of production, in other words, repetition. Without the added joy of striving to make this work fresh by developing new glazes and styles, we’d soon reach a level of boredom and mediocrity that would make our work become a form of drudgery.

Years of experience and practice naturally also changes the work. Our own growth, starting in 1979, stems from the knowledge gleaned from many years of such practice and experience. However, our work is also a reflection of our interests, and is additionally influenced by the nature around us here on beautiful Vancouver Island. Testing glazes, developing new approaches, searching for ways to bring our vision to life helps us to bring a reality to our vision.

Former Glaze Tests
Old Test Tiles Find a Spot in the Garden, and yes, it’s time for a Spring Cleanup.

Vic has become more and more keenly interested in pushing limits when it comes to glazing, and these days he loves spraying layer after layer of glaze on some of his pots. Unlike other potters who traditionally limit techniques that might use ash or crawl glazes to decorative pottery, Vic enjoys seeking ways to incorporate these techniques into production and functional ware. His goal is to make each piece, whether it be a mug, a goblet, a bowl, an urn, a teapot, or those incredibly unique one-of-a-kind decorative items into art. Functional stoneware pottery is the bread and butter income for our studio, while the decorative work is the dessert. But since every single piece created is made by hand, it needs to fulfill us at a creative level too.

Glaze Test Tubes
Glaze tests on tubes allow us to gauge texture, flux, color, etc.

I found myself thinking about the development of our glaze technology over the years. Initially my own experiments involved learning about each of the ingredients by firing them separately onto small bowls. This let me see what worked as a flux and what worked to stiffen and so on. The next step involved combining these elements to understand what happened in synergy. My original glaze tests were all done by trial and error. I learned heaps, but the results weren’t often exciting or of use. Even the glaze chemistry courses didn’t add much to my working results. In time we learned about glaze unity and began to understand much more about the interaction between elements at different temperatures and using varying approaches to bringing our kilns to our desired temperature, or holding the work to soak at a specific temperature, or cooling the work in specific cycles. Of course many of those things weren’t really possible either before the onset of computer controlled kilns which we can set up to suit ourselves.

Picasso, one of the most prolific artists of all time, started out by following the rules before intentionally breaking them and developing his unique style. Likewise, authors like James Joyce, intentionally breaking all the norms of English, stands out for us as a literary giant. Sometimes people who read such works are confused, as are those people who just don’t get cubism, or abstract art. I would say that the artist who not only understands and can follow the rules of art is also the artist who can choose to break those rules. Isn’t that actually the mark of true art–a way to move forward and find a new expression for your work?

Cylindrical Glaze Tests
Our final glaze tests look at impact of layering glazes on a cylindrical form.

The joy of creating is fraught with failure–at least in terms of work that we can sell and earn from. But there is no failure at all when the work teaches us so much, and when it both teaches and delights us, it keeps us interested. We continue to strive for ways to break the rules and find new expression.

 

New Pottery with Ash Glazes by Vic Duffhues, JoVic Pottery

There’s some exciting new work coming out of the kilns at JoVic Pottery in Ladysmith, BC. Vic’s been experimenting with layered ash glazes, and has gone a bit beyond layering with engobes and 4 glazes, now going up to 6 glazes. The results are stupendous, and when combined with techniques that allow for the glazes to “break” on tactile surfaces, well, WOW. Here’s the most recent platter. I’m sure you’ll agree this one is beautiful!

Mt. St. Helen's Ash Glazed Platter with Multiple Glaze Layers, Vic Duffhues
Volcanic Ash Glazed Platter by Vic Duffhues, $175