Friday, July 18, 2008

Elise Winters: Artist and Innovator in Polymer Clay

You are not going to always see pots here. There is a lot of inspiration to be found in all kinds of work, even Fimo clay.

I'm not sure how I found this artist but I'm sure glad I did. It's really hard to believe that this is Fimo. I've never seen this kind or radiance from any polymer clay I've ever seen. Could you imagine glazes like this?

The forms beautiful, sometimes fantastic. The colors are mesmerizing. I would wear this (if I could afford i t)!

It happens that she started out as an earthenware potter, pnotographer and Sumi-e painter. She spent time in Japan and says that the Japanese reverence for nature and subtle design have become her influences.

As I said earlier, I was 'raised in the "Leach-Hamada-Cardew-Reduction-High-Fired-Stoneware-With-Little-Decoration-School" popular in the 70's when I was in schoole. Mostly that meant BROWN. Brown and gray were popular, it was also considered natural. In addition, whole food, natureal food were also popular at my school. These were the early days of this food movement so people weren't really being very creative, yet. Brown food, with bits of what seemed like wood in it. Raisins were added for interest.

Brown Pots, Brown Food. Sad times. People talked about natural colors too. More Brown, just different shades.

My ceramics teacher Billy-Eddie Strickland, pointed out that nature contains some of the most wild, vibrant colors you can find. Electric blue and hot pink are also found in nature.

Isn't color grand!

You can see more at her website:

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Book: 500 Plates & Chargers

Just got my complimentary copy of Lark's latest ceramic book; "500 Plates and Chargers"

The plate on the cover is by Josh Deweese. "That's a luscious pink, Josh!"

The book was 'juried' by maiolica potter and University of Florida professor, Linda Arbuckle.

She's done a great job of selecting the pots for this book. A lot of variety and some really fine work from all over the world. It's more than just 'eye candy'.

The book is definitely worth spending some time with.

Lark Books is based in Asheville, in the piedmont area of North Carolina which is one of my favorite areas for pottery. Seagrove is the area that gets all the publicity and all the tourists. And you do have some great potters there and some of the famous pottery families there as well, such as the Owens', the Meaders, etc. but, in truth, the best work is elsewhere.

Around Asheville, you can find a lot of great potters in the Bakersville area, Roan Mountain and, of course around the famous Penland Crafts School.

If you can't buy it, find a bookstore that has it, find a chair, browse and absorb.
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Jennifer Lee, 1956

Jennifer Lee makes these wonderfully quiet but strong hand-built vessels. She incorporates oxides and sands into the body to give the colors and textures. The oxides, which she gets from all over the world can be coarse or fine, each giving it's own texture and feel. Occasionally the interaction of two ajoining oxides will create a halo effect.

The base is pinched to about 1/3 of the height and the rest is built up in tall bands.

Some of her signatures are the asymetrical 'ledge' like rim on the top pot and, lately, a diagonal band of inlayed colored clay.

You can find images of her work on-line, she's represented by the Galerie Besson in London and the Frank Lloyd Gallery in the US.

There is also a very informative YouTube video of her talking about her pots at last year's SOFA exhibition in the states at

I would love to have one of her pots but, starting at $3000 they're way out of my price range. She says she only makes about 18 pots a year which I suppose helps keep the value up.

Still, I can dream.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Alan Caiger-Smith

Alan Caiger-Smith ran the Aldermaston pottery from 1955 until about 1993 when he retired from actively running the pottery. He continued to work on his own pieces at the pottery until the last firing and official closure of the pottery in 2006.

He is also author of several important books on tin-glaze and lustres as well as many articles. He also co-translated and annotated Piccolpasso's book, "The Three Books Of the Potter's Art" covering Maiolica (tin-glaze) techniques of the Italian Renaissance.

I was 'raised' in the "Leach-Hamada-Cardew-Reduction-High-Fired-Stoneware-With-Little-Decoration-School". It was a revelation to me when Nick Chapman, British slipware potter, did a series of workshops at my univeristy. You can actually decorate this stuff! And it's fun!

I discovered Alan's work shortly afterwards and fell in love with the fluid, caligraphic line of his brush work. However, I was totally bowled over by the beauty, elegance and luminance of the lustre ware.

Not only is the decoration lively and fluid but in the smoky reduction atmosphere of the lustre firing, IT MOVES! The metals in the lustres fume and color the surrounding areas. The smoke gets into the glaze as well and turns it a very soft grey in places. You can trace the path of the flame across the pots by the fuming.

And for all you wood fire macho types, this is wood fired!

Through research, scholorship and trial and error, he revived this technique for modern times. His 'autobiography', "Pottery, People and Time", in one chapter describes his early trials with the lustre techniques. I especially love the image of him pushing fudge through the spy holes of his electric kiln to get the necessary reduction.

His work is in many collections including the Ashmolean museum in Cambridge, which is near his home and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. There are lots of images of his work on the internet and if you go to the two auction sites listed earlier, you will find even more. There is also a nice collector's site at

Since Aldermaston's main focus was on decorated functional ware for daily use, there is a very large amount still being used in private households.

Am I doing too much about tin-glaze? Naw! Two posts doesn't even scratch the surface of this much under appreciated and very demanding technique. There is some really wonderful work being being done today.

I really don't have any prefered pottery style or technique, I just like good ceramics.

Just to keep you happy, the next post will be on something else.

By the way. The platter at the top belongs to me. ;-)

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British Potter James Tower

James Tower (1919-1988) was a student of British potter William Newland (1919-1998).

Newland and friends first saw tin glazed earthenware in 1950 spain and were so influenced by it that he and his friends returned to London a set up a studio producing tin glazed earthenware supplying tiles and fixtures to trendy coffee houses at the time.

They were the counter part of Leach and his circle. While Leach was influence by traditional British slipware and eastern ceramics. Newland and his friends were drawing inspiration from Picasso and the British tin glaze tradition. Leach referred to them derisively as "Picassoettes" Newland didn't claim to be anti Leach, he just said "There are other things to do"

Newland was becoming particularly well known for a special technique that he taught to Tower. This involved either applying a black glaze over an already fired white tin glaze and then scratching back the black glaze to reveal a pattern or doing the same with white over a black glaze.

These flat, somewhat leech like forms are also part of his signature work. His work can be seen in many collections such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London ( and you will occasionally find them at auction at places like Bonhams ( Sothebys (

I was drawn to these pieces when I was working in tin glazed earthenware myself thinking that it was some kind of glaze over glaze reaction. The knowledge that they were produced by a precise method of scraping back the black or white glaze only made me love them more.

I'll let you in on a secret about auction viewing. Before any auction, there are usually several days of viewing where potential bidders can examine the work.

They are REALLY great places to get to look at art up close. The assistants there will even take objects out of display cases so you can get a closer look and often even HANDLE THE PIECE. Often they can answer questions.

Check out the auction sites above, find something you're interested in and then go to the viewing. MUCH better than a museum or a 'Please don't touch" gallery. They also have online catalogues of current and near future auctions and extensive archives of past auctions. These are great places to look at at pots too.

Sure wish I could get my hands on one of these pieces but I just haven't managed to be in the right place at the right time.....yet!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wood Fired Pots From Clark, Murphy, Franke Show at AKAR Gallery

I'm a potter who likes to look at pots and I look at a lot of pots in the 'flesh', in books, on the internet, where ever I can find them. I've been a potter for 28 years and I have always found that I get a lot of excitement and inspiraton from looking at and expiriencing other peoples pots.
In my artist's statement I describe myself as a pot fondler. You can see my own work here

I was looking at these wonderful pots by Bede Clark and Dan Murphy from the current exhbition at the AKAR gallery ( and thought it might be nice to share these with some other people.
The two platters with the folded over lip are by Bede Clark. I think the colors, the surface effects, the fall of the ash, the undulation of the form a just fantastic.
This wonderful jar and the medicine cups are by Dan Murphy

The medicine cups, I think are fired in a process called "Reduction cooling", which is a technique they practice at Utah State University where he is Assistant Professor.
The kiln is fired off and fired down, in reduction. What happens is that you get a lot of ash deposited on the pots at temperatures too low to melt. This leaves a very rich crusty surface on the pots.

Post firing, they grind away the ash on the surface to reveal these wonderful textures and colors.

I think they're really rich and beautiful.
Swing on over to the Akar Gallery and have a look at the whole show.
It's a terrific gallery that shows terrific work.