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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
And how delightful are large ginger jars with beautiful lids?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I found some time to post a few pictures of some vases and jugs and pitchers and told you a little about the “steps in the process.” I thought I’d take the next step here, and show you the pieces as they appear now.
They have all been through a bisque fire, and that’s been followed with an initial glaze firing.
We do the first glaze fire at a bisque fire temperature, though in the case of the pieces shown above, we have also used engobes (we can use some engobes on either leather-hard clay or bisqued ware, while glazes are applied only on the bisqued ware). It allows the powder to fire onto the pieces and makes it possible for them to retain their porous bisque nature which then allows them to receive additional overglazes.
The alligator, or crawl glaze, is particularly tricky. These glazes are reminiscent of dried clay in desert dry areas. As the moisture evaporates, the glazes shrink (almost crawling) to allow for the engobes and underglazes to show through the cracks that appear. I can handle the upper section of the jugs, since the alligator glaze is not on that part of the surface; however, the vase shown below must be lifted carefully with fingers only on the inside of the vessel.
This process is particularly fragile, with the slightest shake allowing bits of the glaze to fall off the pieces, and it’s a special problem on some of the vertical forms. Glazes and engobes are applied in stages, with for example, the glaze on the interior of these pieces allowed to dry for a full day before the additional glaze is applied to the lower sections or exteriors of the pots.
When we’re working on plate or platter forms, we actually have to wax surfaces where we don’t want the texture of the alligator glazes. However, on such forms, we truly delight in seeing the lift and separation of the alligator glaze. After all, we know that in the heat of the stoneware firing, the glaze will lay back down and fuse onto the clay. The waxing process makes the plates and platters truly labour intensive, but the end results are always amazing. It seems most of our pleasure derives from the process, and perhaps that explains why the bulk of our work truly is just that: time and labour intensive.
I’ll be sure to “blog” about the very special dinnerware set that Vic’s making for an upcoming Art Show. The hours spent on creating this one-of-a-kind set will ensure that it is most highly-collectible and will remain one-of-a-kind.
All the work made in our Ladysmith, Vancouver Island, BC studio is actually truly one-of-a-kind. Being the nature of our work, every item is individually hand-crafted. Of course when it comes to dinnerware, we try our best to keep to uniformity, allowing for a true set. Still, it’s like having babies, each one has a personality, making them all extra special.
After several years of operating our online shop, we have discovered that it is far easier to handle customer requests more personally and are happy to manage orders following email and telephone contact with clients.
There are numerous reasons for this change. Most important of all is that it allows us greater creative freedom. As Vic puts it: “you cannot go to a GM dealership and expect to purchase a ’57 Chev.” That may seem like a stretch, but the fact is that we are constantly exploring and as a result, our work is always changing. Having a shopping cart on our site restricts us to a continuous production of items we must then have in stock. We are artists and do not operate a factory, so this goes against everything we strive for in our creation of beautiful functional and decorative stoneware and raku pottery and art.
Our collectors can always ask us to create something using a former glaze or pattern. We will do our best to meet such a request. However, mines change, clay and glaze ingredients change, standards change, and our work also changes.
We will continue to post images of our latest works on our website, and will attempt to provide our internet browsing customers with a price before taxes and shipping. If an item seem and requested has already sold, we’ll do our best to provide a similar item, exchanging emails with photographs to ensure agreement.
Our second reason for discontinuing the shopping cart feature on our site stems from the fact that that the cost calculated by the Plugins required for this online shop is, in our opinion, exorbitant as well as labor intensive. We must measure and weigh each item before we can even post an image. We must commit to specific cartons and packaging. It all boils down to a great deal of extra work before an item is even sold.
As Venture Card holders with Canada Post, we’re able to provide an excellent service which is far less cumbersome at our end when it comes to packing and shipping and is also more reasonable for our customers. We’ve been very successful shipping stoneware and even raku pottery around the world and we enjoy working with the staff at our local postal office.
Your interest in any of our work is always appreciated, and should you see something you think you’d like, we welcome an email to get things started. We will happily respond with photos and specifics to ensure your continued pleasure in our work. We will always welcome personal contact, and for those of you hoping to acquire our special dinnerware, we will always recommend a studio visit. That said, we will continue to ship our work to our collectors and welcome new customers.