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The Magnetism of Ceramic Glazes

I have been working in the lab, making glazes at Ephraim, for a little over a year now. The lab is this space apart at the studio and the work that goes on here ebbs and flows like waves in an ocean. The discovery process for designing new glazes unfolds in utterly exciting and all-encompassing ways.

Imagine mixing a little clay dust, a little sand, some powdered rock, and an oxide that you last encountered in high school chemistry class. The mixture looks like the dry ingredients for a loaf of bread, yet you are aware that instead of ground seeds and grains, these are ground rocks and minerals. Next, you add a little water to the rock-flour mixture until it forms a creamy cocktail for a small test pot. The test goes into a small kiln and you can barely sleep while you wait the 8+ hours for the amazing transformation of heat on these humble elements.

Glazes are the most magical part of the ceramic process. I can’t think of any other artistic process that undergoes such a dramatic metamorphosis. My heart flutters thinking about all the possibilities that come from the same handful of ingredients – from our signature crystalline matte glazes that evoke the purest mineral deposit to glossy, glittery glazes reminiscent of a polished gemstone.

A successful new glaze beckons, inviting our engagement. We look for glazes that have a lively quality that results from flowing movement in the kiln, crystal growth that enhances the surface quality and depth, and color variation that breaks on a form in interesting, dynamic ways.

Another component of glaze development at the studio happens outside of the lab. Ephraim glazers constantly experiment with new techniques for applying glaze; new ways to layer our existing glazes; and exciting, harmonious color combinations. The newest glazes that have come from the studio are the Periwinkle and sprayed Light Olive glazes that Becky developed and the bright red and orange accent glazes in the Rhythm Line that Jennifer developed. The ingenuity of our glazing team inspires me to keep seeking new treasures from lab.

View photo swatches of our glazes.

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Experimental Pottery May 10, 2017

As a result of months of work developing and refining designs, the studio is full of Experimental pottery. A sizeable group of these one-of-a-kind designs will become available online starting Wednesday, May 10, 2017, @ 12 PM (CDT). Each Item is unique, the exact piece represented in the photo and ready to ship in 2 business days. The following pieces and many more will be included in the sale. Prices range between $148 and $950.

We created the above Red-tailed Hawk and Ginkgo vase in memory of Barbara Harvey, an educator from the Horicon Marsh area that dedicated her life to the conservation and rehabilitation of raptors and their habitats. 100% of the revenue from this piece will be donated to the Marsh Haven Nature Center and be used to plant 4 trees at the Horicon Marsh (WI) as a lasting tribute.



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Featuring Artist Becky Hansen

Becky Hansen – Celebrating 10 years at Ephraim Pottery

What inspired you to create a Fuchsia vase for your ten year anniversary?

Becky’s fuchsias at home

Each summer, it has become a tradition for me to place a fuchsia plant outside of my door to welcome me into my home each afternoon when I get home.  I love watching all the stages it goes through to finally open up and present an elegant new bloom, sometimes daily.

When designing the piece, I wanted to incorporate a few of my favorite aspects of vases that I have sculpted in the past – the cutouts below the leaves, the nodding flowers, and the manipulated top.

Two of the first pots that I glazed when I started at Ephraim were the Cherry Orchard and Holiday Cranberry vases.  Both pieces featured red or cranberry glazes flowing into the chestnut green background in such a beautiful and complimentary way.  I wanted to capture this look for the Fuchsia Vase as a tribute to my start here at Ephraim and bring back a dynamic look.

What is it like to work at Ephraim Pottery?
Being at Ephraim for over ten years now, I have seen many changes. These changes have included opportunities for the company and myself to grow and evolve.  It is never stagnant here and each change is a breath of fresh air. Working at Ephraim is much like the Fuchsia – new opportunities open up, presenting a beautiful gift daily.

Becky glazing her Fuchsia Vase

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Earth Day 2017

Earth Day Vase – 2017 Edition (recycled glaze) $218, with $20 per vase donated to The Alliance for the Great Lakes. June update: We had enough recycled glaze to create 46 Earth Day vases. That means that together we have raised $920 for the Alliance for the Great Lakes! Thank you!

Two years ago, we asked, “What color glaze occurs from the accumulated glaze dust in our studio?” We discovered a black, speckled teal glaze and we used that color to make a limited run of “Earth Day Vases.” (read about the 2015 piece here). Inspired by our previous attempt at a recycled glaze, this year Becky wanted to find out what a glaze made from her scraping bucket would look like if she systematically omitted the green scrapings from the bucket. Becky painstakingly sorted her scrapings for an entire year. When the bucket was full, we reconstituted the glaze. The entire studio made predictions about the color – in the raw state the glaze was a chalky pink color that resembled many of our other glazes, but what color would it be fired to 2000 degrees?

The next morning when we plucked the sample out of the kiln, the whole studio had a good chuckle when we saw the color – green! Of course, in the end, this made sense because all of the yellow scrapings mixed with all the blue scrapings. The resulting glaze color is a unique shade of green with a softer tone than our leaf green; slightly bluish, though less blue than our teal glaze.

With this pleasing, creamy bluish green glaze in mind, we turned to Laura Klein to design a vase suitable to our new bucket of glaze and to an Earth Day theme. Immediately Laura seized on the idea of making a cicada vase. The rich symbology of a cicada from ancient art – representing rebirth and immortality, paired with poppies – representing sleep and death, seemed like the perfect, unique theme for this special piece.

Artist Laura Klein throwing the Earth Day Vase – 2017 Edition
Artist Laura Klein sculpting the Earth Day Vase – 2017 Edition

At Ephraim Pottery sustainable practices are a regular component of the workflow. We recycle our used clay within the studio & by donating to local ceramics programs, we purchase energy from a solar and wind-sourced power grid, in the woodshop, John uses “scraps” of his quarter-sawn oak to build the smaller tile stands, and we offer reusable cloth bags in our galleries. Various staff members walk or bike to work, others drive fuel efficient vehicles. The list goes on…but you get the idea – we truly care about this beautiful planet and strive to protect the natural world which is our essential source of inspiration in our art.

We invite you to add this special vase to your collection and to also continually strive to make healthy choices for our planet. In honor of Earth Day, we will donate $20 from the purchase of each vase to The Alliance for the Great Lakes. Their mission is to conserve and restore the world’s largest freshwater resource using policy, education, and local efforts, ensuring a healthy Great Lakes for all generations. Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day Vase – 2017 Edition (recycled glaze) $218, with $20 per vase donated to The Alliance for the Great Lakes.
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A Beautiful Time to Visit Cambria, California

Five years ago, on a leap of faith, Kevin Hicks, owner of Ephraim Pottery, opened Ephraim Pottery West Gallery in Cambria, CA. California’s Central Coast enchanted him and the beauty – so different from our Wisconsin surrounds – continually inspires us. The locals have been so warm, inviting, and enthusiastic about our art pottery. We feel like Cambria is a hidden treasure that we would love to share with you.

Our gallery manager, Shari Little – a California native and our wonderful ambassador to the area, answers some of our questions and provides a bit of insight into visiting her neck of the woods this season.

Shari Little – West Gallery Manager

Here in Wisconsin the weather is damp and grey in April. How is Cambria in April?

We’ve had over 35 inches of rain this season in Cambria and another storm due here on Friday.  Most people like to visit when it is sunny, which it typically is, so they can do all the outside activities – biking, kayaking, walking, hiking, paddle boarding, etc.  The positive side of all the rain is that it has brought our flowers early and lots of them.  I had a customer in this morning who shared some pictures of the Poppy Reserve she had just visited. 

Craftsman Poppy Vase in teal & Pacific Poppies Bud Vase.

Heavy rain has caused problems with roads and bridges in the area. How has that affected tourism?

I’ve spoken with other business owners here and we all agree that we’ve seen a very significant slow down because of the Big Sur – Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge collapse on HWY 1.  Right now, there is nothing but parking everywhere – East Village is the same.  If anyone would like to visit this time of year, they’ll have the towns to themselves with plenty of parking (unlike Summertime).

What are the must-see stops for visitors to the Central Coast?

If you have a day or a weekend to visit Cambria our sunny West Village gallery is a must stop. Here you will find an ever-changing offering of handmade art pottery, art tiles, woodwork and Arts & Crafts style furnishings. Our neighboring shops and eateries also have quality goods to offer, plenty to make for an enjoyable day of leisure!

While in Cambria there is great hiking and walking along the boardwalk next to the ocean at Fiscalini Ranch. Very nearby in San Simeon, there is a great spot to view the elephant seals. Also, a tour of the famous Hearst Castle never disappoints. Just south of us, Avila Beach is the warmest beach on the coast and is an upscale town with a golf course and a working pier. Nearby San Luis Obispo also has wonderful shopping and a fabulous night farmer’s market on Thursdays.

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria, CA
Cambria coastline