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Ephraim’s Journey with Functional Glazes and More

Making pottery requires great fortitude and courage. Six years ago we switched from our earthenware clay body to a stoneware clay body, which would support the studio in developing a line of functional pottery over time. Concurrently, the new stoneware clay body would sustain Ephraim’s existing and ever-evolving line of art pottery. Many of the studio artists began their potting careers as functional production potters and enjoy the idea of returning to their roots in functional ware. This leap initially required our glaze chemist to reformulate all of the production glazes so they were compatible with our new clay body a huge endeavor!

As our standard production glazes stabilized, the shift in materials generated new, innovative techniques for glazing pottery. It laid a foundation for us to formulate a new line of glazes from scratch that were fired at a higher temperature and suitable for functional ware.

Glaze Development – Midfire Glazes

Just like staring at a blank canvas with a palette full of paint, setting out to design a new glaze line can be daunting. It forced us to imagine how we wanted these glazes to look and feel:

  • Should they look like our earthenware glazes?
  • Should they relate to each other?
  • Should they be entirely different from our signature glazes?

These were all questions that we would explore in great detail over the coming years.

Three long years of testing ensued that yielded several complete failures, along with a portion of promising results. From this humbling experience, we firmly concluded that these functional glazes had to not only be pleasant, but extraordinarily beautiful. Indeed, beautiful enough to eventually hold their own beside the masters of mid-century ceramics that we deeply admired. With each glaze test we were reminded that while making art is academic and inspiring, it is equally hard and requires extreme patience.

Inventing a beautiful, stable and functional glaze turned out to be a fraction of the development necessary to bring our vision to life. We still had to develop methods of applying the glaze and firing the pieces that also looked beautiful. From dipping, to spraying and everything in between we tried countless methods to achieve the stunning look we were after.

 

In addition, we needed to extensively explore the perfect form for these functional pieces, one that served as an elegant and refined canvas for our elegant, functional glaze. Coffee mugs in every shape and size imaginable were created and, over the course of a year, friends and family were surveyed to evaluate the most compelling coffee mug features. Our first functional offering is indeed a coffee mug, the Cauldron Mug, presented in October 2018. The form features a thin rim, subtle break in the main body form, and comfortable large handle with a modern, elegant foot. The form shows off the feathery, buttery glaze perfectly and we couldn’t be more proud.

The journey goes on as we endeavor to create bowls and more mug designs in 2019, continuing to use our experiences, good or bad – failure or success, to move us forward.

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2018 Fall Collection – Limited Edition

As we celebrate the season of abundant harvest and cool-weather gatherings, fall’s motifs deeply inspire us. The altered autumn light calls our attention to bright, orange-dotted pumpkin patches; eerie, bat-filled skies; and crunchy, oak leaf-scattered landscapes.

Bumble Patch Pumpkin – Limited Edition

$ 218.00

A plump bumble bee settles on the tallest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch. Vibrant orange glaze, treated with a unique splattering technique, imbues this piece with whimsy and depth. Bumble Patch is Ephraim’s third rendering in our series of limited edition ceramic pumpkins.

-Limited Edition 2018 Fall Collection design available August 24th – September 21st
-Thrown, sculpted & glazed by hand
-Approximately 8.5″H x 4.25″W, L14

Petite Oak Bowl – Limited Edition

$ 148.00

The understated beauty of oak leaves and acorns adorn this sweet, little bowl. Ephraim potters create a distinctive texture on its form while throwing this piece on the potters’ wheel. This texture, which makes the glaze break in rich and interesting ways, engages one to behold it.

-Limited Edition 2018 Fall Collection design available August 24th – September 21st
-Thrown, sculpted & glazed by hand
-Approximately 2.25″H x 4.25″W
-Traditional earthenware is porous; liner recommended for use with water, L13

Gotham Crossing Vase – Limited Edition

$ 458.00

Did you know that Central Park, amidst its 25 bridges, is considered a haven for New York City’s bat-sighting enthusiasts? Ephraim’s Gotham Crossing Vase marries the quintessential architecture of bridges with the quintessential architecture of bats. The result is a strong, nocturnal design that takes on an abstract sensibility, offered in two moody glaze combinations.

-Limited Edition 2018 Fall Collection design available August 24th – September 21st
-Thrown, sculpted & glazed by hand
-Approximately 11″H x 8.5″W
-Traditional earthenware is porous; liner recommended for use with water,  L15

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Shadow Play Vase – October 2018

 

$ 258.00

Shifting twilight creatures engage in a nightly game of hide-and-seek as the sun dips below the horizon. Ephraim’s stunning Shadow Play Bowl captures this ritual with a pair of bats and scarabs dancing on the rim of this high-shouldered form – a gradient of soft lavender cascades to deep indigo at its base. All this foretells the enchanted veil of nightfall inevitably closing in.

Artists created 31 pieces for this limited edition during September. The 31 pieces were offered for sale online and in our galleries on October 6th and were available until the edition sold out

-2018 Freaky Friday limited edition – fixed edition of 31, available while supplies last
-Thrown, sculpted & glazed by hand
-Approximately 5.5″H x 6″W
-Traditional earthenware is porous; liner recommended for use with water

L34

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Exercises in Intentional Creativity

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” Salvador Dali

Seeking Inspiration

As artists, we are conditioned to draw inspiration from a variety of sources – nature, books, personal experiences, and our community of artists. While we intuitively channel this inspiration into our everyday work, it is useful to push our creativity in more intentional ways. This intentional, or outside-the-box, kind of creativity is an important investment in our future work and always seems to pay artistic dividends.

A Design Challenge – The ‘Fifth Season’

In the studio we started calling intentional creativity ‘Fifth Season’ work, which represents design work that diverges from what we think of as standard or safe, and instead strives to be novel – if imperfect. The idea of the Fifth Season surfaced last January as the holiday season wound down. We completed design and production of our Winter Collection, the fourth seasonal collection of the year, and were in the midst of  creative renewal as we reflected on our year of designs. Then, Jill presented a fun design challenge as an exercise to stretch our creativity. Each artist was tasked with designing a vase based on two random parameters drawn from a hat, historic style and motif. Artists drew the following:

Allison – A landscape in Newcomb College style

Becky – A symbolic motif  in Amphora style

Ken – A flower in Nouveau style

Alek – A classic motif in Rookwood Pottery style

Leah – A steampunk motif in Saturday Evening Girl style

Kevin – A geometric motif in Teco style

Jill – A rebirth motif in Grueby Faience Pottery style

Laura – A whimsical motif in Prairie style

Jennifer – A bird in Marblehead Pottery style

Sharing Our Ideas

The End Results

While the end results are far from refined and finished, we found great value in pushing ourselves into new territory. Little bits of technique and whispers of inspiration from this exercise now emerge as successful elements in our new artwork.

 

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Help us Design a Pop Culture Vase

From Game of Thrones and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea to Bigfoot and “Shark Week”, we are inspired by popular culture. Collaborate with Ephraim artists to design a fan-built pop culture vase.  Which offbeat, nontraditional motif makes a good subject for ceramic art?

Every Ephraim vase begins with a free flow of ideas – in a sketch or through freeform play with the clay.  Help us transform a simple lump of clay by responding to us on Facebook, Instagram or email (ephraim.office@gmail.com) with your ideas for a motif. We’ll gather a group of the strongest or most unique ideas and then reach out to you again with our interpretations of your theme. Follow and participate in this journey on our Facebook and Instagram pages(#ephraimfanbuilt).

Update 8/17/2018 –

At the studio this week we sketched out a plan to make the first pop culture vase. Laura unearthed a Lord of the Rings book and a couple of books with antique children’s illustrations to inspire us. We want to create a personified tree who holds a bowl between his limbs. Kevin threw the forms for the trunk and the bowl. Laura will throw the limb that supports the bowl and then she will assemble the thrown forms and embellish the tree with sculpture. Follow our journey on Facebook and Instagram as we work out the finer details of this piece and as we explore other pop culture vase ideas – #ephraimfanbuilt

Pop Culture-inspired Experimental Pieces from Years Past

All of these pieces were created from 2015-2018 and currently reside in private collections.

Kevin’s Bigfoot Throwing A Pot Vase

Kevin is the ultimate Bigfoot fan. For his birthday we created a lidded jar for him featuring Bigfoot throwing a pot. This piece now holds a prominent place in Kevin’s home as a prized part of his art collection.