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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
While our pottery studio always makes its primary claim on our time, we also have a 3-acre property that demands attention. This year, as members of a local tour of studios and the gardens artists use for relaxation and inspiration, we’ve given our place a little extra loving attention. The rhododendrons have now finished blooming, and they’ve even been dead-headed (not something I always manage in such a timely fashion).
delicate fragrant blooms
Right now it is our gorgeous honeysuckle that is spreading its intensely fabulous fragrance all through the yard, especially in late afternoon and early evening. We have it right near the grapevines, and work to keep them from getting completely entangled.
The blooms aren’t large, but they are many and they’re elegant and truly lovely.
Our garden provides ample opportunities for shade, light, fragrance, sunshine, and even allows us the joy of entertaining. Just last week we were able to host a house concert for one of Canada’s celebrated award-winning singer-songwriters.
Ian Sherwood started his 8:00 PM concert in sunlight, and finished as we finally began to enjoy the paper-bag lanterns with their tea-light candles adding a magical quality to this sure-to-be annual event in our backyard.
His music and personality, his ability to layer sound was absolutely perfect for a garden that has layers of appeal, from rustic to elegant, it suits Ian’s approach.
What a wonderful evening of beauty and music. My garden sculptures with their solar lights, freshly weeded flower beds with a lovely layer of mulch. Yes, this year our garden is as deeply loved as our studio. Come take a look for yourselves. We’ll gladly tour you through the studio and around the property.
The Wonderful Annual Cedar and Yellow Point Artisan Christmas Tour is just a couple of days away. The studio is buzzing with activity. Some of the work that will be out on the shelves is cooling now and will be out of the kiln today. Vic’s amazing alligator-glazed functional and decorative stoneware will fill our showroom with everything from mugs and vases to casseroles.
Jo’s new series, “Quilting on Clay” is truly exciting. Using under glazes on stoneware clay when it’s bone dry can be a little nerve-wracking. As long as clay has not been contaminated or fired, it can usually be re-claimed. However, once I start adding those under glazes, I’m committed to getting it right or tossing it out.
If the work only took an hour or so, that would not be a real problem. But these pieces can take up to two full days to paint.
It’s my love of quilting and needlepoint, both former hobbies that I no longer have time for, that inspire this creative line. I can remember spending time years ago searching fabrics that complimented my choices for making a quilt. When I do this work with clay, I don’t have to choose the fabric designed by others, I get to create the look of my own fabrics while I design the quilt I have in mind.
The work is moving from forms with folk-art painterly fabric approaches to more traditional quilt backgrounds and even to backgrounds with the feel of a final applique design. It’s truly fun.
While not all the work has come out of the kiln yet, I’m delighted with the final results I’m seeing on some of the finished trays now.
I’m sure the tour visitors will enjoy the splashes of color from the truly exciting new pieces. There will also be a great selection of the award-winning modern art stoneware with goblets and trays and more available for people wanting to select really special hand-made gifts that will become treasured favorites this Christmas.
The Cedar and Yellow Point Tour starts on Thursday, November 21st and ends at 4:00 pm on Sunday, November 24th. We’ll be open from 10 – 5 throughout the tour and will have Carol’s Wreathes for Haven House as well as our usual refreshments.
We’re truly looking forward to seeing lots of visitors at our Ladysmith, Vancouver Island Studio. We’re offering 20% off the ticketed price of our gorgeous raku vessels for this Holiday Season. We also have a great selection of clearance pottery and that will be marked down by 50%. It’s a chance for our customers to get a truly great deal on some of the work and will make some room in the studio for the new ideas and creations we’ll want to pursue next year. It’s the 25th year of this remarkable tour and we’ll have maps to guide our visitors to some of the fine local artists in our beautiful area.
I’m not sure what’s driving this particular period in my work, but I sure am enjoying myself. The freedom I find in using underglazes as paint on clay as my canvas is pure creative joy.
The first piece had me thinking about Piet Mondrian, and there’s no doubt I love what he was doing. But when I look at my work, there’s more than this influencing the outcome. I’ve come to conclude that some of it is just the impact of being a teenager during the pop-art era. I love seeing the way the colors develop too, with real changes following the bisque and final glaze firings.
What started on my slab-ware pieces is now continuing onto thrown forms. The fact is that I rarely ever use the potter’s wheel anymore. Arthritis truly has had an impact on this side of my work. But since I have the great fortune of being married to my potter husband, Vic Duffhues, we can create pieces together. Actually, I can ask him to make specific items for me to play with; and truthfully said, this creative work is a form of play.
There are times when I feel my neck seizing, and the knots begin to form and I know it’s truly time to stop. However, in spite of the pain, I can’t put the brush down and my thoughts of quitting end up delayed by hours on end.
I really don’t know where this is going, or when it will wind itself into something new and different again, but I do know that the pieces that are coming out of the kilns these days fill me with happiness. Despite the fact that this is a series, each piece is unique. I consider color placement, consider the “movement” each stroke leads my eyes to follow.
The final firing is yet to come for these darlings, and it will result in a further enhancement and brightness of color. But I’m already excited and feeling happy to see them, and I am sure they will only go to people who can appreciate and feel the same joy in seeing and using them. After all, these are definitely happy pots.
We have managed to get some of the work through final firings. The goblets are $30 each, but will only be sold in pairs (to prevent being left with singles) or sets of 4. The wine brick sells for $50 and makes for a fabulous utensil holder or vase as well as a terrific wine brick.
I am really delighted with the final results. I can see myself developing various approaches to this work.
Different color palettes but with a unified original theme.
I’m getting some excited response to this work already and I’m so looking forward to showing it off this weekend on Sunday, August 25, at Arts on the Avenue in Ladysmith, BC.
There is bound to be further development in this series of painterly pots, and I’m already looking forward to the Rocky Creek Winery Tour in Ladysmith in September (more details later).
And I expect to enjoy painting on more and more pots. I think I’m adding some real FUN into our functional work.
Lately, I’ve been dreaming brilliant colours. There are two distinct drives working their way through my dreams. First up, I’ve been wanting to get back to some folk-art painting. I realize that the hours spent glaze-painting one single pot really do little to add to our income. However, I also know that if I don’t follow through on this kind of drive, my creativity will dry up altogether and I won’t be able to work in clay at all.
This has made me think about earning a living as an artist. Why is it that a painting fetches so much more money than a clay vessel that has been painted with glaze? It takes me far longer to paint with glazes on pottery than it ever took to do an acrylic or watercolour painting. That being said, I’m finally able to console myself by remembering that the painting side of this is truly actually my creative hobby. The clay end is what I do for a living. I’m able to combine the two. Perhaps someday these special pieces will earn someone a profit. Isn’t it so often true that the artist has to die before value is attached to the work?
But back to the two drives…. The second push coming my way feels somewhat retro. My first piece in this series made me think of Piet Mondriaan. It was after doing the “painting” on that piece that I found myself “googling” Mondriaan, and I realized that the work I’m doing is far more colourful. So what was that influence. Perhaps it’s what comes from having been one of those teens in the 1960’s. Perhaps it’s pop-art. Whatever it is, I must say that it’s all painstakingly slow work and has caused some major stress to my neck. However, even when I can feel the neck muscles cramping, the lactic acid bumps building, I’m unable to walk away. I keep working on and on.
I totally love the results of my colourful phase in clay,whether applied to wheel-thrown work or my slab-ware. I’m hoping our customers will be equally delighted. I’m using a clear over-glaze sprayed onto the work. It results in a shiny surface that is totally pleasing to the touch and absolutely delicious to see. It must be said, though, clear shiny glazes are probably the most difficult to photograph. These items are best seen in person.
The brilliant colours I’m using come from commercial under-glazes. As always, our own glazes are completely safe for use with all foods and beverages, and the commercial under-glazes are also safe, derived via fritting. All these pieces are dishwasher safe as well.