We’re so glad to have seen so many of our annual visitors returning again during the Cedar and Yellow Point Artisans’ Christmas Tour. This 4-day event is always fun, and a little exhausting. We spend lots of time cleaning the studio, and setting it up to give it just the right spirit. It’s worth the effort, and it’s even more wonderful when it is as successful as it was again this year. It is truly great to know that the beautiful stoneware pottery we love to make will become treasured Christmas gifts for some, while others could not resist treating themselves with some of our art.
We want to thank all our visitors, and also all the new customers that found us for the first time. We wish you the best of the season and a truly fantastic 2017.
I’m proud to say one of my favourite paintings also sold today.
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.
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.
The making of quality stoneware pottery, whether functional or decorative, is far from a rapid process. Aside from clay preparation, pots made require careful drying before they can even be put through their first bisque fire. But just the making is a time consuming thing, especially for large vases that are thrown in two stages.
Getting the neck onto the base requires careful joining; after all, if the pot is not put together correctly, the neck would come free of the vase. Careful smoothing and finishing is needed.
Then there’s a process that allows us to get some color onto the pieces before a first firing–of course not until the pieces are bone dry. We often spray the work with engobes, or brush on slip.
Once the pottery is again bone dry, we’re able to place the work into the kiln for a first firing. We bring them up slowly and cool slowly as well to avoid any potential cracking or warping through this cycle.
The cooled pots then need waxing before we can glaze. If we didn’t wax the bottoms the pottery would end up stuck to the kiln shelves.
Once the waxing is finished, we can get on with the work of glazing. This is frequently a slow process because we tend to use multiple glazes and each coat must be completely dry before we add a next layer. Bisqued pottery is still somewhat porous, and the water base of the glazes is absorbed into the work, requiring careful and total drying between each step.
Some of our pottery is actually put through a few low temperature firings. This ensures that the first layers of glaze are fired on, allowing us to handle the pottery without smudging or accidentally removing some of the glazes. Though the glazes in this case have not reached a mature melt, they are stable enough to handle.
Fired on glazes really help with some of our more complicated glaze applications. Crawl glazes, for instance, cannot be applied to glazes unless they have already been fired on at a lower temperature. By their very nature, as reticulating glazes, they would pull up any immature glazes they were placed on and instead of an attractive crawl, exposing lovely sub-surface colors or glazes, they’d end up exposing some terrible peeling effect that exposed clay.
Each kiln load has us looking forward to seeing whether what we envision at the start of making our work actually lives up to our hopes.
With the glazes applied, the final drying begins.
Once we’re sure the pots are dry, we can carefully load the kiln. Great care must be taken with vertical vases that have crawl glazes applied near the base.
A slight bump and the glaze will fall off the pot, potentially leaving bare spots where they might not be desired, and also fusing to expensive kiln shelves or other kiln furniture.
Some of the final results pleased Jo Duffhues immensely–not so Vic. He’ll likely take the vases he’s not thrilled with and apply additional glazes for yet another re-fire.
I have to remind him that some of our customers love the pieces that he is not excited about at all. The trouble is that when we work we have an idea of the outcome we’re seeking, and if things don’t turn out that way, we tend to think it’s a failure. It’s very hard to get past that kind of negative response. But since I love these pieces, I think they’re a great success.
Yes, these are the vases that Vic is seen making in the images above. Now it’s just a question of who wins the argument–will they be fired once again?
There’s some exciting new work coming out of the kilns at JoVic Pottery in Ladysmith, BC. Vic’s been experimenting with layered ash glazes, and has gone a bit beyond layering with engobes and 4 glazes, now going up to 6 glazes. The results are stupendous, and when combined with techniques that allow for the glazes to “break” on tactile surfaces, well, WOW. Here’s the most recent platter. I’m sure you’ll agree this one is beautiful!
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.
Aside from mixing, pugging, wedging, throwing, trimming, handling and drying pots before they ever go through that first bisque firing, we frequently add yet one more technique: we add layers of sprayed on engobe to the bone dry work. Here are just a few pictures of Vic Duffhues doing just that.
In some cases, the pots are sprayed with what we might call the main engobe, and in case you’re wondering what that is, I’ll explain. There are multiple techniques used to add color and depth to pottery. Slip, possibly most commonly used, is a wetter version of the clay itself, sometimes with an oxide added for color. It is generally applied to pottery that is considered leather-hard, well before a pot is dry enough to be fired. Engobes generally have a much lower clay content, and they can be applied to a wider range of pottery in various stages. Like slips, they can have colorants added, including commercial stains or oxides.
We like spraying layers of color onto our work and usually do this when the pots are bone dry. We generally use an engobe for the first application, allowing it to dry before adding another different engobe, or sometimes a smoother and finer Terra Sigillata. There are many recipes for engobes, slips and terra sigillata available and each will work differently depending upon time of application, clay body, firing temperatures and so forth. As with all underglaze applications, potters have to experiment and fine-tune before coming up with a version that works best for them.
When these pots are once again bone dry, they are fired in the kilns to somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1000 ° C or approximate 1950°F, all depending on how hard or soft we want the pots to be before we apply final glazes. If you’re curious about firing temperatures, you can consult this chart from Bellevue College.
Many of our pots actually go through three firings before we reach that final finish we’re seeking. During our second firing, which we also do at a lower bisque temperature, we can fire on glazes so that they will be stiff enough to allow handling, but soft enough to allow for further glazing. We do this to add depth and richness and texture, a step that ensures that glazes will marry in the final firing. One of our final glazes is actually frequently called lizard skin or alligator glaze. It has to be applied to a pre-fired underglaze because it is actually a reticulated glaze, meaning that it shrinks more than the glaze surface underneath. The shrinkage during drying and firing leaves the surface beneath this glaze visible. This technique would once have been considered a glaze flaw and named a crawl glaze, but it has become rather popular in the last 15 or so years being deliberately applied to decorative pottery. Our studio is unique in the way the technique is applied to functional stoneware pottery.
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.
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.
Pottery is rarely something that provides instant gratification. Our work requires clay preparation, wedging, and preparing balls of appropriate sizes for the wheel-work to follow. We cannot even attach handles, or trim the feet of the pots until they’ve reached the appropriate leather-hard stage.
Once we have managed that step, we need to patiently wait for the pots to reach a bone-dry state before we can follow that step with firing.
Vic’s jugs and pitchers are special. The jugs are made in one piece, and Vic takes special pleasure insuring they have comfortable and attractive pulled handles.
Once the pottery is actually dry, we have to continue with the firing process. The first firing leaves the pottery in what is known as bisque ware stages. It’s a little bit porous, which assists in the glaze process that comes next. The minerals we use for glazing are suspended in water, and the bisque ware absorbs that water while the mineral glaze mixture dries into a powdered state on the pottery. Yes, that takes time too, and once again we wait before we can place the work into the kiln for the next step. The final firing (provided there are only two of them) brings the work up to a stoneware temperature. It becomes as dense as stone and is then able to hold food and liquid making it exceptionally functional.
I’ll try to post pictures of these pots once they’re finished. This series is most likely to receive at least three firings, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. I hope you are too.
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.