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.
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.
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.
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.
Jo Duffhues rarely finds herself able to work on the potter’s wheel anymore. There are multiple reasons for that. Perhaps foremost is the arthritis in her hands. But the switch from a wheel to hand-built or slab work actually began when she was doing her graduate studies and found that she just could not get back into the studio for the follow-up that wheel-thrown pottery usually requires. Making pots is a process. There are so many steps required before something is finished. Preparing the clay, throwing on the wheel, trimming and handling on subsequent days, decorating at various stages… all these steps require a commitment to return to the studio in a timely manner. That isn’t always possible when you’re also doing other things on a full-time basis. Jo found that she could wrap hand-built work and return to it at her own pace, and she gradually gave up regular wheel throwing.
Over the years it became natural for Vic to make practically all of the wheel-thrown work that comes from JoVic Pottery in Ladysmith–a terrific studio on Vancouver Island. However, every so often, Jo feels the urge to center herself at the wheel. She can’t deny the impact of this amazing zen approach to clay, nor would she want to deny herself the joy she’s capable of finding in it.
There’s no doubt that constant practice is required for exceptional functional pottery, and Vic Duffhues is definitely a master potter capable of tremendous production. But Josee (Jo Duffhues) isn’t worried about production. She’s delighted by the fact that she has the freedom to take the clay, not bothering to weigh it, and to make whatever the ball she’s thrown onto the wheel allows. It’s a freedom and joy. Each of these bowls will end up being a one-of-a-kind vessel that someone will delight in using, just as she’s found immense delight in enjoying the rhythm and peace she’s experienced creating them.