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.
Over time we obviously develop. Our skills have improved over the last 3 decades, and we’ve continued to develop new and exciting glazes and decorating techniques. However, we have a customer who had purchased a full dinnerware set about 20 years ago–thankfully, it’s a set they and their extended family members continue to love.
Last year, this couple came to visit and discussed the possibility of giving their parents a similar set. We had to revisit techniques we rarely employ. But the idea of a son wanting to give his parents dinnerware for Christmas proved irresistible. They modernized by requesting hexagon rather than wheel-thrown plates for a set that included 8 dinner plates, 8 dessert plates, 8 soup bowls, a butter dish and a platter.
Vic’s now packing this set. We’ve been able to send pictures along the way sharing the progress with the son and his lovely wife. They live in India. Their parents are in Alberta.
We were so happy with the final results, and we know that these lovely pieces will grace the table and bring the family a deep sense of joy and connection–even with the tremendous geographical distance. This stoneware dinnerware set will remind both families of many great celebrations, and this Christmas will be a special first shared sense of celebration using our wonderful JoVic Pottery.
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.
This year, the annual Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans’ Christmas Tour will start at JoVic Pottery. The tour starts on November 19th and runs for a full five days through to and including Sunday, November 23rd. We’ll have lots of extra brochures for those of you who have yet to get your hands on one. It’s an exciting tour, and the brochure provides a terrific map to assist you on this self-guided foray into the studios and gift shops of the members of this arts association.
Whether you’re looking for art to add to your own collection or some gifts for those lucky recipients on your Christmas gift list, you’re bound to find something special. There’s fabulous variety available too: amazing First Nations art by Noel Brown, whose artistry can be found in galleries around the globe and includes hand carved copper, silver, gold and platinum jewelry as well as traditional cedar carvings; glass work created by Ted Jolda, including his collectible Christmas: paintings, prints and more by the talented Kathy Barnson; and more paintings by Lauren Kent; furniture and wood works painted by the award winning Claudia Lohmann; furniture and jewellery from Yonder Wood; up-cycled funky functional furniture and natural art at the Fern and Feather. But that’s not all, there are wonderful studios that specialize in plants, seeds, herbs and herbal products for your home and garden, including: Hazelwood Herb Farm, Fern Gully Garden, and Seeds of Victoria. Foodies will find special gifts and delicious ingredients at Fredrich’s Honey and Yellow Point Cranberries. There are some quilts, and special Christmas temptations at some of the other locations as well from quilts to iron works, and of course you’ll find our stunning functional and decorative stoneware and raku pottery here at JoVic Pottery, and more pottery at the Blue Ox too.
Plan to make the tour into a few fun days. With some terrific dining choices, from the Crow and Gate, the Wheatsheaf Pub, The CoCo Cafe, to The Cottonwood Golf Club, and some outstanding Bed & Breakfast choices in our area, you’ll be on a holiday getting ready for the holidays to follow. Check the map for yourself, and enjoy a great stay in our beautiful community on Vancouver Island.
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.
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.
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.