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A Photo Journal of the Miniature Making Process

Miniature Process

During late winter, Ephraim artists boldly engage in an emerging tradition. We find space on our shelves and in our creative consciousness to build miniatures based on beloved Studio Collection designs. Our fine motor skills are already honed from holiday ornament production which intuitively turns our attention to what we fondly call “minis.”

 

Miniature Octopus Vase

In fact, it’s the artists’ experience over the past 15 years in developing and making hand-thrown ornaments that led to experimenting with one-of-a-kind miniature vases. The process offered our studio unique challenges, taking years to work through.

 

Miniature Stalwart Oak Jar

While the finely-wrought details in glazing and sculpting minis require similar techniques to their full-sized counterparts, it also requires more delicate motions, sharper tools, and ongoing patience. Loading an asymmetrical, minuscule figure with a tiny foot into the kiln demands precise balance so the pots can fire evenly.

 

Miniature Craftsman Rose Vase

To date, Ephraim has only managed to offer four miniature designs in short-run, limited editions – all in the last six or seven years. We will continue to welcome this post-holiday challenge because, in the end, the effort keeps us nimble and each successful attempt keeps us cherishing these astonishingly adorable and rare mini reproductions.

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Making Space • These 11 Designs Retire at the end of January

Retiring Designs 2019

Each January we make space for the year’s new designs by retiring a handful of pieces from production. This carves out creative capacity and studio space for us to refine new designs that are in the works for the year ahead. While this is exciting creatively, we are wistful each time we have to say goodbye to a beloved piece of art.

Top row (left to right): Tropical Orchid Vase, Art Nouveau Crocus Vase, Orange Tree Tile, Giboshi Lantern

Center row (left to right): Revival Rose Jar, Noble Dragonfly Vase, Koi Pool Tile

Bottom row (left to right): Canopy Vase, Midsummer Vase, Aqueduct Vase, Crown of Snowdrops Vase

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January Update from Kevin + Studio Scenes

  A note from Kevin Hicks, Ephraim Pottery’s founder

As new energies and perspectives rush in with the new year, I pause to reflect – there’s much to consider! Foremost, I feel humbled by your incredible support, thank you. Ephraim’s vision of creating art in a collaborative, cooperative space is enlivened by your interest in our work. In partnership, we are able to continue to foster our curiosities and challenge our creativity to delight you, our fellow art enthusiasts.

Collaboration probably isn’t the easiest way to make art, but in our experience, it might be the most gratifying. We are ever-amazed at the elevated ideas that surface when we share the process – wading through myriad concepts, contemplating, compromising, experimenting – ultimately building off each other’s ideas. We seem to always arrive at something refreshingly satisfying that would never come from any of us independently. Today I am encouraged to see more collaborative models in the workplace, schools and other communities. This way of interacting with the world pushes us to explore and thrive beyond imagining. We highly recommend it.

I am excited as we plan and execute creatively in 2019, inspired by you, each other and the world around us. We never rest on finding new ways to speak through our artistry.  It’s been a privilege for me to participate in the studio throughout each and every one of Ephraim’s 22+ years in business. What I see happening right now – artistic synergy, lessons learned, evolved ideas and relationships – may just make this the best year yet. We are excited to develop and present to you a range of exceptional pottery and wood offerings. Let’s continue to stay connected through this journey – we enthusiastically welcome your support in 2019.

Studio Scenes • January Edition

Happy 2019 from all of us at Ephraim Pottery. January finds us actively planning 2019 campaigns, organizing space, and refining new designs while pottery production continues.

Collaboration is alive and well as we confer with each other about our new designs for 2019. Below Alek, Jill, and Becky meet to discuss the glazing on a new vase; Jennifer and Allison strategize at the kitchen table; and Kevin and Alek work together to pug more clay.

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Studio Scenes • November Edition

This November our makers are as busy as the elves in Santa’s workshop, energized by creating the festive ornaments and vessels that enhance your holidays. Managing these projects entails tracking many steps, an abundance of patience and endurance, and a love for the work.

1. Jill translates your online orders into work orders for the artists. 

2. Artists get their hands and minds to work throwing, sculpting, and glazing.

3. Smiles emerge (along with sighs of relief) when perfect pieces are pulled from the kilns.

4. These perfect pieces arrive in Becky’s shipping area where they are packed with care and delivered to your doorstep!

5. We also made time in November to give back with a fun side project.

6. We fueled our long studio hours with a healthy lunch and time spent together around the table.

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Tips for Online Buying During Ephraim’s Experimental Sale

  1. Items are held in your cart for ten minutes. Check out must be completed entirely within this time frame. Your ten minute buying period begins when you put your first item in your cart. Items will be auto-pulled from your cart for other buyers to purchase after your ten minute buying period ends.

  2. We offer free shipping on all orders so you can easily make multiple purchases to manage the purchasing time limit.

  3. Log into your account (or create an account) before you begin shopping so that your personal information is saved and ready when you check out. Have your credit card ready when you check out. For your security, credit card information is not saved on your online account.

  4. When shopping, refresh your browser frequently to see accurate product availability.

  5. The Experimentals are available until they are all sold. The website reflects each item’s  sales status relative to the ten minute time frame described above.

  6. We’re always striving to improve your online shopping experience with process improvements and technical updates. During online Experimental sales, there is unusually heavy web traffic which can complicate online buying. We ask for your understanding should things get complicated –  don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 920.648.5269. We are here to help.

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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.