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Creative Process: Making Miniatures

A History of Making Miniatures

Before Ephraim Pottery, potters Kevin Hicks and Ken Nekola, made miniature pottery as part of their work at Rowe Pottery. Rowe had a line of miniatures and sold doll tea sets to the Pleasant Company (American Girl Doll). Miniature-making required a special skill set and when it came time for Hicks to start Ephraim Pottery, he earned extra money working as an independent potter for the “Miniature Pottery” in Edgerton, WI.

Ornaments lead to Miniatures

Hicks’ and Nekola’s experience making miniatures eventually translated into hand-thrown ornaments at Ephraim. The ornaments, in turn, led to occasional experimentation with one-of-a-kind miniature vases. The finely-wrought details and demands in firing present a unique challenge that has taken the studio years to overcome. To date Ephraim has only managed to offer three miniature designs in short-run, limited-editions – all in the last 5 or 6 years.

Little Details make Divine Miniatures

This year, thanks to our master kiln-loader, Alek Schroeder, the fine motor sculpting skills of Ken Nekola and Laura Klein, and the amazing attention to detail and quality of our glazers, Jennifer Alexander, Becky Hansen, and Allison Jelenchick we are able to present you with three miniature designs in multiple glazing options. We are especially proud of the intricate details encompassed in this collection and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Four new limited edition Miniature New Frond Vases from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase, $148 each or $542 for the Collection of 4. Organic Green, Pacific Batik, Algae & Autumn Reflections.
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase.
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Allison Jelenchick and Jill Winslow.

Five new limited-edition Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl, $168 each or $790 for the Collection of 5. Algae, Teal, Leaf Green, Pacific Batik & Autumn Wheat.
Limited Edition – Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Becky Hansen.

New limited-edition Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase, $178
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase. Thrown and sculpted by Kevin Hicks. Glazed by Jennifer Alexander.


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Designs Retiring Jan 29, 2018

A New Year – Old Favorites Retire to Make Shelf Space for Fresh Designs

Each year in January and February the studio rearranges shelves, moves pots, and re-stacks tile as we juggle our space to make room for all the new designs coming out of the kilns. So, wistfully, we choose a group of pieces to retire.This year’s selection includes 7 vases, 2 bowls, 1 paperweight and 6 tiles. Be sure to order these wonderful pieces before their editions close and we cease production of these designs on January 29th.

Collectibility and Limited Editions

At Ephraim, we are part of a long tradition of collectible art pottery. Art pottery lends itself to collectibility because historically it tends to have been well marked with “shop marks” and it was naturally limited due to the making process. We have upheld the tradition of marking our pottery and because of the handmade nature of our process, the pieces are limited by the capacity of the pottery. We document how many pieces we make and publish these figures on our website in order to support collectibility.

Our art pottery and tiles are limited editions. Designs in our Studio Collection are limited to a maximum of 500 pieces. We also create limited, reserve and numbered editions of special designs. When a piece of pottery or a tile is retired, we officially close the edition, record the final numbers produced, and never revisit that particular design again.

Historical item listing – Retired & Discontinued Aug 2017

Mountain Sunset Vase by Ephraim Pottery, Retired January 2018
Mountain Sunset Vase
Mountain Vista Tile 3×3
Sitting Bear Tile 3×3
Climbing Bear Tile 3×3
Flowering Arrowroot Bowl – Shown in Autumn Wheat & Pacific Batik. Also available in Julep Green.
Look Before You Leap Paperweight
Prairie Pine Cone Vase – Pacific Batik, Dusky Olive, Autumn Wheat, Autumn Reflections, Cranberry and Desert Sun.
Tributary Tile 5×7
Nevermore Vase
Bittersweet Cabinet Vase – Autumn Wheat, Aqua
Willow Thicket Bowl – Shown in Autumn Wheat. Also available in Shibori.
Perched Cardinal Vase
Twilight Tile 7×5
Pacific Cliff Vase
Heritage Garden Vase
Awakening Tile 5×5 – Shown in Chestnut. Also available in Cranberry.
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Bold Design + Simplicity

Sometimes the holy grail of making successful art involves marrying bold design with simplicity. We think about the elements of design all day, every day in the studio.

Here are some of the lessons we have learned over the years for achieving great design in ceramics:

  1. It is important to notice subtleties of form, especially in terms of the line formed by the edge – where the vessel meets the background. Most people don’t think about the artistic element of line when they think about pottery, but line is a critical factor in refined, well-designed pottery.
  2. Bold design is confident. In the same way fluidity and confidence result in a good golf stroke, a fast and fluid pull on the potter’s wheel produces a more confident form. It helps to trust the broad physical motions of throwing pottery and resist the urge to spend a lot of time perfecting a form inch-by-inch.
  3. Often (but not always!) odd numbers make elegant design sense. Likewise, applying the rule of thirds to a piece of art can be a successful tactic. Always be careful about adding design elements that break at the vertical middle of the form as this divides the form in half and disrupts the eye.
  4. Simplicity doesn’t mean simple or even minimal. While simplicity and minimalism can indeed work nicely together, we usually characterize pieces that maximize simplicity as also being well-unified. Sometimes we achieve successful unity through repeating patterns and other times we achieve it through harmonious glazing schemes.
    Lyrical Poppy Vase
    Living Fossil Vase
    Giboshi Lantern

    Victory Falls Vase – Limited Edition 2017 Fall Collection – Retired
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Reflections on 2017 – Pottery is hard!

1. We are human.

Our work will always reflect our uniqueness. Creating at this level is incredibly challenging…and rewarding. Each loss is actually a lesson gained, not a chink in our armor.

2. Pottery is messy.

Our studio is covered in a fine dust of glaze particles, spatterings of wet glaze and smears of wet clay. When we are not creating the messes we are working on the regular equipment repairs and searching for ways to improve our efficiency. Keeping this studio humming along is a collaborative effort – from designing, hand-building, marketing, and order entry to shipping final pieces.  An infinite number of errors could occur, but we give each piece our attention and dedication. Miraculously by the end of the process, the mess gives birth to beauty and we deliver joy to our collectors.

3. Our kilns give us lumps of coal at a regular rate.

Any ceramic artist can relate – a thankfully small – but persistent percentage of breaks, falls, unwanted drips, over-firings, under-firings, etc. are to be expected. This roll of the dice is what gets so many of us geeked! Our standards are extremely high, so the kiln errors also translate into a regular supply of seconds and irregulars available in our Studio Gallery.

4. When the kilns deliver perfectly we still break pots.

After expertly hand painted well over a hundred “snowy birch” ornaments, Leah was devastated to drop and break an entire board of them. Breaks in the galleries are also a bummer…. Whenever possible we have a laugh and make the most of our accidents. Laura has a wonderful habit of turning failed greenware into hideous creatures, which are a peculiar comfort to all of us.

5. We proudly enter our 22nd year of creating this special art pottery called “Ephraim”.

Despite all the challenges or perhaps because of them we continue to be inspired by the ceramic process and driven to advance our collective abilities. We are humbled by our successes and forever grateful for our collectors. It is solely because of your appreciation for this traditional art form that we exist. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support. Cheers to 2018 and all the joy and new pottery it is sure to bring!

Ephraim Pottery Staff (left to right): Becky Hansen, John Raymond, Kevin Hicks, Leah Purisch, Allison Jelenchick, Shari Little, Ken Nekola, Laura Klein, Sarah FitzGibbon, Jill Winslow, Jennifer Alexander, Alek Schroeder and Nicole Cooke. California staff not shown: Terri Belford, Kathleen Marlo and Lynn Taylor.




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Ephraim Artists: Art of the Gift

Gift giving is on everyone’s mind this time of year and Ephraim artists are no exception. As we busily make the ornaments, vases, and tiles on order for the holidays this year, we contemplate which special gifts we will give our loved-ones.

Each artist has a different take on the art of gift giving. We hope that in sharing these thoughts, we offer some insight into our personalities and maybe even spark a gift-giving idea for you at this important time of year.

Laura: My favorite gifts to give are the ones that I make by hand. My coworker, John, and I have been exchanging handmade gifts for years. We have a lot of fun trying to out do each other and make odd, unique gifts. A couple of years ago I made John a “Disturby” Santa for his tree. A “Disturby” is the word I made up for these disturbing dolls that I make. John has given me jewelry made from deer droppings (which is surprisingly beautiful and, of course, finely crafted), and a skull ornament with a santa hat with deer horns.

Jill: This is my first year working at Ephraim, so I am buying a lot of Ephraim pottery for gifts. I am finding so many different pieces that relate to the interests of many of my friends and family members. I often also shop on Etsy, give experiences, and donate to charities.

Nicole: I have a lot of little ones on my list and love to give them gifts that encourage their budding creative minds: art supplies (big canvases, brushes, old fabrics and thrift store craft finds), legos and vintage musical equipment are tops on my list. Anything that they can get messy with or use to make some funky sounds! For the adults on my list, it’s either pottery 🙂 or experiences – like dinners out together.

Kevin: I try to think ahead when it comes to gift giving and I always try to look for unique things on my travels. I want to buy gifts that are not mass produced. I especially like to find gifts that tell a story and connect to values that are important to me.

Becky: One thing I like to do when I am thinking of gifts for people is to think about their interests and hobbies and then get them a gift that relates to that. For example, my brother and I share a connection and hobby of exploring and hiking. Every year we go backpacking for a few days in Minnesota. I like to find outdoor gear for him that supports his hobby.

Allison: I like to give gifts that inspire creativity. This year I am excited to give my partner a pho cookbook. She loves this soup and we have a running joke about it, so this will be perfectly inspirational and ‘pho’nny as well. Now she can make her own soup!

Jennifer: This year I am giving more experience-related gifts. My nieces and nephews have a lot of toys, so I am excited to give them museum passes and an Ephraim Bloom Workshop gift certificate. Every year I love making Christmas cookies and giving these to all my friends and family.

Alek: I like to buy handmade from local, small shops. These places have unique offerings and pay more attention to small details. I really appreciate that.

Leah: Like many of my friends here at Ephraim, I try to give handmade gifts when I can. The most memorable gifts I have received have been handmade and I want to give people things that are unique and will be cherished. Often these unusual items are either whimsically personal and offbeat or very finely crafted.

Ken: I like to browse bookstores for gifts. I can usually something for the grown-ups as well as the children on my list.

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2017 Winter Collection – Limited Edition Designs + Winter Holiday Series

Introducing the 2017 Winter Collection. May these colorful designs brighten your home during this spirited season and bring you years of delight. We offer our sincere gratitude and holiday cheer for your loyalty and goodwill throughout the year.

This year’s Winter Holiday Series – Lyrical Poinsettia Vase – will be available until all 85 of the numbered edition pieces are ordered. The rest of the Winter Collection will be available in our galleries, online, or by phone 888.704.7687 through Dec 15.

Winter Design Series – Lyrical Poinsettia Vase. Thrown and sculpted by Kevin Hicks. Glazed by Jennifer Alexander.

Limited Edition – Snowy Birch Ornament. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Leah Purisch.

Limited Edition – Tree Hopper Ornament. Thrown by Kevin Hicks, sculpted by Laura Klein and glazed by Becky Hansen.

Limited Edition – Hidden Garden Ornament. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Becky Hansen and Jennifer Alexander.

Limited Edition – Dashing Through the Snow Tile. Pressed by Leah Purisch and Kevin Hicks. Glazed by Jill Winslow.

Limited Edition – Winter Bouquet Vase. Thrown by Alek Schroeder, sculpted by Laura Klein and glazed by Becky Hansen.