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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bisque firing the work, and hoping you’ve dried it enough to prevent warping or cracks from appearing, or engobes flaking off.
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.
Possible firing another bisque, but this time with glazes on the work.
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.
Applying additional glazes, and then waiting for these to dry before carefully loading the kiln for that all important final glaze temperature firing.
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.
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.
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.
With the Annual Christmas Studio Tour less than a week away, things are at their most hectic at JoVic Pottery. We still have pots drying and readied for one more bisque firing. Including the always special and rare mugs with mocha diffusion tree decoration.
We’re unloading lovely bisque firings to keep us busy glazing.
And, of course, we’re also unloading some extremely exciting finished stoneware firings with our unique approach to crawl glazes and layered glaze decorations. We even have the popular belly mugs, travel mugs, and arthritis tumblers coming through.
For those who love to enjoy a good glass of wine in the best goblets around–yes, goblets and wine bricks are coming through now too. The goblets are also great for hot toddies and those very special Irish coffees.
Don’t miss the terrific 5-day self-guided studio tour. It’s the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit and find just the right gifts for your family and friends–or maybe just to spoil yourself.
The tour runs from November 19 through the 23rd and the hours are 10-5 daily. We have brochures with maps at our studio and we’re glad to help you prepare for the fun. And yes, we’ll have our hot cider and some delicious snacks for you to nibble while you browse as well as Carol’s beautiful wreathes–fundraising for Haven House.
And the work continues for special custom orders meant for Christmas gifts, including hexagon shaped dinnerware plates and dessert plates… though working around a studio dog can sometimes proves tricky.
Of course some of the pottery that has been through the multiple firings is now beginning to find its way into our showroom.
This year’s studio tour will run a full five days. Be sure to pick up a brochure at our studio and enjoy yourself on this lovely self-guided tour through our beautiful area just north of Ladysmith and south of Nanaimo in the Cedar and Yellow Point area of Vancouver Island.
You’ll find an endless variety of beautiful hand-made gifts, in our own studio and in the many other wonderful studios and gift cottages taking part in the wonderful annual event.
Tour hours are 10-5 daily, November 19 – 23. and there’s a terrific map in the brochure.
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.