The Art of Kiln’n It will provide collectors of Vic’s amazing, textural stoneware with a glimpse at the pots he most likes to make–the ones that stretch his ideas for form, function, and glaze techniques. Here’s a little preview of a very pretty bowl.
Many potters will talk about the inspiration of previous master potters when it comes to the direction of their own work. They follow the examples set by such notable masters as Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leach, Lucie Rie and others who have had tremendous impact on the development of the modern potters following in their footsteps. But there are also potters who live in surroundings that inspire their lives and their work. We count our blessings to be among these.
We have also relied on the masters to hone our skills over the past 35 years, but we find that nature continuously offers us a palette that finds its way into much of what we create here at JoVic Pottery. We borrow from it to add beauty to our glazes and the textures of our work.
We have the amazing fortune of working and living in one of the most beautiful areas of British Columbia on Vancouver Island. In fact, we could say that it’s our honest belief that we live in the best part of Canada. With its temperate climate, spring always comes early to our island, erupting with colors and birdsong each new day, and constantly bringing new delight. From the red current blossoms so favored by hummingbirds, to the rhododendrons with their massive blooms, our garden brings joy.
Our studio is on our property, a 3-acre parcel which has a small creek running through and alongside of it. A wonderful right of way on one side provides tall trees that aid in creating a tranquil space, and our front yard boasts a circle of giant trees that within their midst offer respite from the heat in summer, as well as providing a contemplative oasis that practically hides us from the world. The boaters who come to Page Point Inn especially enjoy this area as a break from bright summer days, and we’re just a two-minute walk from their marina.
We are always happy to welcome visitors to our studio and property. And many of our visitors, especially those who don’t have the fortune of making their home here in the Ladysmith area, find delight in taking the time to wander through and enjoy both nature and our clay garden ornaments. Come and see for yourself–we’ll welcome you.
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.
Mocha Diffusion is a very special technique: a process that is almost magical to watch because of the very rapid way that landscapes are formed in front of your eyes.
Whenever visitors come to the studio here at JoVic Pottery, and we have the time to engage with them and show them a few things, a mocha demonstration is often at the top of the list.
Achieving success with the process on pottery often proves very difficult. Everything has to be just right for things to work. The pots need to be almost bone dry. At that stage they will rapidly absorb the slip applied. This slip is quite alkaline. The introduction of an acid can be shown by the addition of colorants to a tea made with boiled pipe tobacco.
If the pots are too dry, the slip just forms ugly blotches and runs. If the pots are too wet, the slip stay wet too long and the “trees” grow well beyond our desired needs right over the edges of the rims. It’s a Goldilocks process, so if the pots are just right, we can quickly make landscape strokes and add a little extra tea in those spots where we’d like a tree to “grow.” We really have a very short window in which to do this decoration and pure concentration is required, as well as a planned approach.
But for our visitors, we have a delightful solution consisting of a piece of plastic that we dip into the slip bucket. The slip stays wet, of course, but almost always works to demonstrate the technique. We watch the trees grow and continue this growth demonstrating not only the wonder of dendrite at work, but also explaining how continued moisture is undesirable on our actual work.
Vic Duffhues has been using this technique for many decades. Yet even with all that experience, he’s not always guaranteed the results he’d like. Now he chooses to exercise this form of decoration only in the early spring, when drying conditions are most easily controlled. The result is that we never have enough mocha pieces and there is always a demand by collectors.
They truly are gorgeous mugs and tumblers and we joke that these are the fastest growing trees in British Columbia.
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.
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 Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans’ Christmas Tour just 10 days away, the studio is absolutely humming. Lots of beautiful stoneware pottery is drying and waiting for the final bisque firings, including those highly favored mugs.
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 post is just a fun way to share some pictures I took of my favorite potter the other day. He’s gearing up for our annual studio tour. I’m so glad he continues to love working this way and he’s been making pots since 1979, and has certainly honed his skills at our amazing Ladysmith, Vancouver Island studio: JoVic Pottery. Come visit.
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.
At JoVic Pottery, here in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, it has been our privilege to participate with families memorializing and keeping the ashes of their lost loved ones. We’ve been able to make urns in either a stoneware or raku process. We have made them shaped as Traditional Ginger Jars, or as more round, spherical shaped vessels. We have even had the honor of holding a candlelight service at our studio for one of our customers–a service for which we closed our studio to all but the family and friends in attendance–a customer who has become a treasured friend.
As potters, we have the joy of helping people celebrate all of life’s special moments from birth to graduation from college, for weddings, anniversaries, holidays, birthdays, and more.
But perhaps the most sacred of all is that moment of transcendence from the physical to spiritual stage in a loved one’s life.
The lidded vessels made by request can also filled and sealed with the ashes of the deceased at our studio. This is done with the utmost respect. Stoneware vessels are sealed with wax, and in some cases with an additional item that belonged to the departed loved one. For instance, in one case a beautiful gold chain was worked into the closure. Out of respect and for privacy, these dedicated and specially created urns cannot all be shown in such a post as this. It is important to note, however, that we are willing to individualize such special vessels whenever possible.
Should a customer choose a lidded vessel from our showroom, we’re delighted to assist with sealing if requested.
However, we’ve often found that people want us to create their urn specifically. We then make the vessel from start to finish with the love and respect, with special intention, adding unique touches that celebrate the loved one who has moved on. Custom urns generally take up to two months to complete and range in price from $250 to $450.
Arts on the Avenue is just a few days away–this coming Sunday. This is the 16th or 17th (not sure) time this fabulous event will take place in Ladysmith. You can peruse some of the pictures taken last year by clicking on this link to the Gallery. You will, as always, find us there too. We try to make sure that every year has us bringing some of our newest work for this home-town street event.
This year’s line-up of artists is as terrific as ever, and we’re counting on the weather to cooperate and make this another fabulous day. But let me tell you about some of the fabulous pottery we’ll have ready for our collectors and new customers alike… better yet, let me show you.
The stoneware pot shown above is definitely one of my favorites to come out of the kiln this past week. Vic’s alligator finish, layered engobes and glazes, and the gorgeous form, all work together to invite the eye and hands to love this vase. Ah yes, this one is worth drooling over.
There are other gorgeous vases too… including the one shown right with a delicious fat bronze detail on the neck.
Of course we will have a series of gorgeous mugs, and some of them will have that fabulous layered alligator finish, but we also have a few with a new ash-glazed combination that is really stunning. The ash comes from the Mount Saint Helen’s eruption.
And there are some lovely tea lights coming out of the last few firings–they’re perfect for romantic dinners, relaxing atmospheres for that soothing bath, or just simple soft mood lighting.
We’re excited to continue to enjoy the beauty of our Vancouver Island home here in the Oyster Bay area of Ladysmith, BC. It’s a place that constantly provides inspiration–but come and see for yourself and discover why so many artists, artisans and talented crafts people make this place home.
There are some delicious new pots coming out of the kilns lately. We’re expecting to have quite a few more for Arts on the Avenue which is our annual Ladysmith event that allows us to visit with so many of our friends and neighbors. It’s an event just not to be missed, showcasing lots of great local artists as well as some super Artisan food creators.
I think you’ll especially love some of our new pots. Their texture is superb.
Summer is upon us and we’re gearing up for the annual Arts on the Avenue show. This special event has been running for about 16 years, and this year’s line-up of fabulous artists promises to make for another exceptionally beautiful day. It takes place on August 24, 2014. The location is First Avenue in Ladysmith, between Warren and Buller Streets. They, of course, will be closed to traffic, making for a delightful pedestrian experience. So come on out between 10 AM and 4 PM for an incredible day overlooking Oyster Harbour.
We’re hard at work in our own studio to make sure that we have everyone’s favourite mugs on hand for this show–and plenty of them too. They’ll be “muscled” or “textured” for that personal comfortable fit. Making mugs requires so much more effort than many people realize. Aside from mixing, pugging, wedging, and weighing out the appropriate clay balls for throwing on the wheel, our mugs also have to stiffen to a leather-hard stage before they can be handled.
Vic likes to “pull” the handles, but to ensure consistently beautiful handles, he starts by preparing a whack of them ahead before attaching to the stiffened mugs and then pulling them into shape almost using a “cow-milking” motion.
The mugs are then carefully dried before they can be put through a low-temperature bisque fire in advance of receiving layers of glazes and engobes. Much of our work now experiences several low-fire applications of engobe and glazes before a final glaze firing can take place.
If you can’t make it to Arts on the Avenue, don’t worry, our studio is open and we’re always glad to welcome visitors. Our garden is still in bloom, and we’re right near Page Point Inn. We’re also more than happy to tell you about our community here, and have brochures that will guide you on the Cedar and Yellow Point Artisan Trail.
It’s a truly special time of year at our studio, and not just because it’s such a pleasant time to work there once the cold and dark winter months are past, but because everything outside the studio also calls us. The garden and our amazing property provide ample inspiration, and not just a little bit of labor to our days–so thank goodness those are also a little longer as we head toward summer.
We have such an amazing yard, it simply bursts forth with life during the spring season. Trees and shrubs bloom magnificently, each year showing us their will to survive and grow. This past year saw us losing a few trees on this 3-acre patch of heaven on the outskirts of the town of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. Like the rest of Canada, our season started much later than usual. We clearly didn’t get the massive amounts of snow that have continued to plague some parts of the country right into this usually lovely month of May, but we saw some truly chilly weather and suffered a few major wind storms. One of those trees nearly ended our wonderful Gunnera’s life. It’s coming back, but it’s so much smaller than the giant we’ve seen in previous years. It’s all coming back–a little later than usual, but more magnificent than ever.
All in all, our garden (with its quiet restful spots, its park-like areas, its rustic places and even its little memorial garden, and the tiny pond) provides us with wonder and inspiration. It suits our pottery and some of the sculpture that comes from what we see. It takes its character from this temperate coastal climate and from the ample rains of autumn and winter. It feeds birds and deer (and even some of the dreaded rabbits) and fills us with joy. Our garden is a home for wildlife and we hear the eagles kiri-ing overhead, or sometimes the raven with its amazing koo-koo-koo-koo (so lovely and different from the squawking of black birds). The hummingbirds visit the shrubs and the feeders. The raspberry finches and the quail add more to this natural beauty–yes and of course there are bees buzzing and butterflies fluttery by.
Spring is truly a magnificent time of year here, and our garden is to be celebrated. We’ve joined with some other artists in this area between Ladysmith and Chemainus just so that we can share the beauty. From June 1 to September 14 we’ll be willing to let visitors wander through not just our studios and galleries, but our gardens. So come out to the Ladysmith and District Art and Garden Tour--it’s a self-guided event–and enjoy and share in our inspiration here in the Warm Lands of Vancouver Island.
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.
Jo and Vic
After spending a week with Don Ellis at Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts (MISSA), Vic’s re-inspired to do more with Raku. That has resulted in both of us working with raku clay again. I’ve been using some Industrial Raku, with the reminder that this is not a particularly white body of clay. Vic’s been using WSO, but though this clay fires up nice and white, which is terrific when it’s used with a white crackle glaze, it’s also terribly groggy. At MISSA, Vic was hearing about Soldat 60. He picked some up, and yesterday he started making some pots with it. I can hardly wait to see the final results and will be posting some pics later of the new pieces he’s throwing. In the meantime, Edward McCrea came by and started taking some pictures of the firings.