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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.

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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2017 Spring Collection – Limited Edition Designs

Spring is here! As the frozen landscape once again gives way to warmer days we joyfully celebrate some of the season’s most fleeting actors – a dramatic magnolia bloom, elusive nuthatch, delicate bluebell, humble crocus and emerging frog – with our limited edition 2017 Spring Collection. Available online March 1st – 31st, 2017.

Kevin Hicks throwing & sculpting the Southern Magnolia Vase – Limited Edition. Glazed by Jennifer Grelk.

Ken Nekola throwing and sculpting the Where’s the Nuthatch Vase – Limited Edition. Glazed by Jennifer Grelk.

Bonny Bluebells Vase – Limited Edition – Glazed by Allison Jelenchick. Thrown by Alek Schroeder & sculpted by Laura Klein.

Nodding Crocus Vase – Limited Edition – thrown by Alek Schroeder, sculpted by Laura Klein & glazed by Jennifer Grelk.

Mill Pond Frog Vase – Limited Edition – thrown by Kevin Hicks & Alek Schroeder, sculpted by Laura Klein & glazed by Allison Jelenchick.

 

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2016 Top Ten List

Top 10 highlights from our 20th year in business.

1. Reaching our 20th year of business at a high point. In this momentous year, which we view as a bridge from our past extending into our future, we achieved profound growth. Through reflection of the lessons learned over the 20 years of experimentation, trial and error we have decisively stepped forward this year. Our choices in everything from design work to business practices have lead to a level of stability that will sustain us for years to come and allow us to continue to do what we love.

2016 Artists  – Becky Hansen, Allison Jelenchick, Jennifer Grelk, John Raymond, Kevin Hicks, Alek Schoeder, Leah Purisch, Ken Nekola & Laura Klein.

2. The “Colossal Dragon Vase” and the unexpected result of this “art for arts sake” project which was followed by people across the globe. Over the course of several months this vase provided a very amusing and challenging side project. Despite the numerous complications and high unlikelihood of achieving a first quality finished piece, we did just that. We then sold it at auction and donated half of the profits to youth arts programming and food banks.

Having a little fun on a weekend Kevin Hicks threw the form that would maximize our kiln capacity.

Allison Jelenchick developed a new “speckle” glazing application this year and boldly applied it to the Colossal Dragon Vase.
Jennifer Grelk also spray applied layers of glaze to the body of the vase. Through brushwork she expertly glazed the sculptural elements.

3. The ever growing successes of our West Gallery in Cambria, California and our Studio Gallery in Lake Mills, Wisconsin. Both locations opened additional rooms expanding the retail spaces and accommodating larger inventories of pottery. The galleries also hosted more events than any other year. This allowed more people to see a wider selection of our pottery in person and hand select their purchases. Visitors frequently comment on the beauty of our galleries and have been known to make up excuses to linger longer… Each gallery is situated in an idyllic little town, which themselves are well worth the visit.

West Gallery – Cambria, CA
Studio Gallery – Lake Mills, WI

4. The 20th Anniversary Spring, Summer, Fall & Winter Collections. The idea behind creating these designs was definitely risky considering our limited production capacity and forced us to multitask like never before, but resulted in 20 much loved and highly collectable designs. Aligning our creativity with the seasons of the year felt right at home with our nature inspired approach to designing. We are very pleased to announce that we will carry on with the season collections in 2017, offering you fresh limited edition pieces. The most popular pieces from each of the 2016 seasonal collections were as follows: spring – Snowdrop Tile & Frog Log – tied, summer – Reflection Lantern, fall – All Hallow’s Eve, & winter – Beekeeper’s Ornament.

5. Our first Artist Anniversary piece that is not ceramic art, but a work of art created in wood. 2016 marks the 15th year that John Raymond has been employed at EFP as an artist. He worked in creating and applying glazes for most of those years, but since 2012 has spearheaded the wood shop. John’s “American Craftsman Wall Shelf” fully represents his devotion to detail, skilled handiwork, fine design aesthetic and innovative thinking. With this piece he has created something brand new that easily fits in a bungalow or craftsman home and is widely admired. John will be making these wall shelves until they retire May 15, 2017. And then we hope he will take a vacation!

American Craftsman Wall Shelf – John Raymond – 15 years

6. Our 2016 Studio Collection and the 3 additional Artist Anniversary pieces within this beautiful group. The Artist Anniversary pieces will retire May 15, 2017. Our 2016 Studio Collection pieces represent our core aesthetic and current expertise in the ceramic field. The 2016 Studio Collection designs will be produced in editions of up to 500. They are available in our galleries or made to order, just for you, online.

Fuchsia Vase – Becky Hansen 10 years, Anniversary Rose Vase – Kevin Hicks 20 years, and Provence Cypress Vase – Leah Purisch 5 years.

A selection of vases & tiles from the 2016 Studio Collection.

7. The opening of Bloom at the Studio Gallery. This tile painting workshop space is open to visitors during our regular gallery hours. With Bloom we hope to share our enthusiasm for art-making and facilitate access to our glazing methods. We invite you to join us at Bloom and get your hands in the ceramic process. More details can be found on the Studio Gallery page.

Participants can choose from a special selection of Ephraim tile designs and use our signature glazes.

8. The experimental ceramic shade art lamps dreamed up and hand-thrown by our artist and owner, Kevin Hicks. Always pushing boundaries, Kevin has outdone himself this year with these extraordinary lamps. Historically there are very few examples of hand-thrown lampshades. Fulper made them from 1911-1918 with leaded glass. The Ephraim lamps shades are made with mica. Each lamp made in our studio explores the boundaries of what can be done in clay and brings a better understanding of the design potential. A total of 12 first quality lamps were made in 2016.

A representation of the range of ceramic/mica shade lamps created by EFP in 2016.

9. The expansion of our custom work option. This year we have been able to flex within our Ephraim style aesthetic to accommodate many alterations in form, glaze and sculpture to suit the personal artistic sense of our patrons, providing them one-of-a-kind pieces that fully represent their dream. These custom pieces bear a special C mark on the foot to signify their custom work classification. If your imagination is running wild with a custom idea (that still fits in our wheelhouse) contact the office (888-704-7687) to discuss details in 2017.

Examples of custom work completed in 2016.

10. Our collaboration with Michael Thee Studio and the launch of “Glaze Drop Jewels”. This special line of jewelry is handmade by Milwaukee jewelry artists Michael Thee and Mary Wolhgemuth using “drops” of our glazes which are a by-product of our firing process as the glaze flows off our vases. These one-of-a-kind adornments can be found in our galleries and at times on our website. Read all about this unique collaboration and the the resulting jewelry on our blog.

Thank you for your interest in Ephraim Pottery and for supporting our artists who carry on the tradition of American art pottery. We owe our existence to our customers and are forever grateful to the people who choose to buy our handmade products. In the new year we hope to continue to push boundaries and surprise you with exciting new designs and experiences.

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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Limited Edition Designs

In the Making of the Stillness Vase

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Kevin Hicks throwing the Stillness Vase
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Leah Purisch glazing the Stillness Vase
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Stillness Vase $218

In the making of the Treasure Ornament

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Ken Nekola throwing the Treasure Ornament
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Ken Nekola sculpting the Treasure Ornament
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Treasure Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Treasure Ornament $128

In the making of the Gathering Vase – Winter Holiday Series Numbered Edition of 85

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Kevin Hicks throwing a Gathering Vase
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Laura Klein sculpting the Gathering Vase
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Gathering Vase
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection + Winter Holiday Series – Gathering Vase $328

In the making of the Beekeeper’s Ornament

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Ken Nekola throwing the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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Ken Nekola sculpting the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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Allison Jelenchick glazing the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Beekeeper’s Ornament $50

In the making of the Toadstool Ornament

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Alek Schroeder throwing the Toadstool Ornament
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Alek Schroeder sculpting the Toadstool Ornament
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Toadstool Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Toadstool Ornament $50 – Snow, Indigo & Sand

 

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Jewelry Collaboration with Michael Thee Studio

Introducing “Glaze drop Jewels” a new line of jewelry made exclusively for Ephraim by Michael Thee and Mary Wohlgemuth of Michael Thee Studio.

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In the 20 years that we have been making our own glazes they have been flowing off or our pots and pooling in beautiful “drops” on our kiln shelves. We have marveled at these unique by-products of our process and dreamed of someday utilizing them. Then this summer we met jewelry artists Michael Thee and Mary Wohlgemuth of Michael Thee Studio. They were not only enthusiastically open to working with our “rare gems,” but their wonderful handmade aesthetic and shared value of working collaboratively make us proud to work with them and showcase their art.

Ephraim’s glazes, a signature element of our pottery, are unconventional in that they have been designed to flow. Most potters use stagnant glazes because flowing glazes present such a multitude of difficulties. Yet we find that the rich character and surface quality that exists as a result of the flowing glazes far out weigh the problems. In order to work with these glazes, we suspend the pots in the kiln on a stilt over a kiln shelf. As the glazes flow in the firing they run off the foot of the pot and pool in drops on the kiln shelves. We then grind the bottom of the pot to remove the vitrified drips of glaze on the foot.

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After we remove all of the pots from the kiln, 6 shelves – all spotted with unique glaze drops – remain. We scrape these drops from the shelves, apply a new layer of kiln wash – a coating that protects our shelves from the daily glaze drops – and we admire and collect the uniquely beautiful glaze drops during this process. Inevitably new glaze combinations produce unusual looking drops, which creates an additional level of excitement in the studio. As Kevin often points out, “that glaze drop is rarer than a diamond,” and with all these beautiful specimens piling up around the studio we simply had to find a way to exhibit them.

That is where the award-winning jewelry artists Mary and Michael come in. We met Mary and Michael at the Lake Mills Arts Festival. Their jewelry and metalwork stood out to us as exceptionally well rendered and incredibly inventive. Mary and Michael gravitate to organic themes like trees, leaves, and stars in much of their work. They also playfully incorporate historical architectural design elements into their work, mingling organic and industrial-inspired motifs. Their work with these familiar themes means that we have a shared aesthetic and because we speak this same language, they are perfect collaborators. Here Michael and Mary are shown working in their Milwaukee jewelry studio.

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Colossal Dragon Vase – Experimental

WebHave you heard of the phrase: “Art for art’s sake?” Once in a while we get the urge at the studio to push boundaries. We take these risks for the thrill of the ‘what-if’, to find the limits, to stretch ourselves, and frankly to see something new. Kevin came to work one quiet weekend in June and in a fit of inspiration threw this colossal form. No small task, the forming and sculpting of this piece took a couple days of work and a lot of careful handling through the modeling, drying, and firing processes. We expected to learn a lot along the way, but we never expected a first quality piece to result from this experiment in ‘art for art’s sake.’ Follow the blog to see the process of making our Colossal Dragon Vase and witness our jaw-dropping excitement at the beautiful end result.

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The form was thrown by Kevin Hicks using the method of throwing a base, adding coils, pulling the layers together and adding an inverted form at the opening.
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Kevin used a torch to accelerate the drying process on this challenging form.
Kevin greatly enjoys creating dragons which can take so many shapes and really allow the imagination to run wild. The body, wings and horns were all wheel-thrown elements.
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The Colossal Dragon Vase dried for over a month in our humidity controlled tent. Shown here beside a Walden Pond.
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Loading into the kiln for the bisque firing required the kiln to be disassembled and rebuilt around the form once it was in place. The greenware is very fragile.
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The Colossal Dragon was bisque fired with another experimental dragon vase.
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The large size of this vase combined with the fragile sculpture created a challenge in glazing the interior. After much experimentation a “sploosher” was built to spray a quick, even coat of glaze up into the vase.

 

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Kevin Hicks and Jennifer Grelk inspect the interior glaze application.
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Jennifer Grelk applied the base layer of sprayed glaze.
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Jennifer spray glazing the base layer of glaze.
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Allison Jelenchick applying a speckle coating of glaze to create a dramatic finish.
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Allison glazing a “Petite Violet Bowl” while Jennifer applies the brushed glaze to the sculpture.
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Jennifer Grelk applying the many intricate glaze elements to the dragon.
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Jennifer glazed the dragon in pumpkin, grey, black & sun.
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Loading into the glaze firing was less challenging since the form was stronger from the earlier bisque firing.
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The Colossal Dragon Vase (shown here hidden under a cloth) was revealed to our staff during a party at Leah’s. We gathered to share home-cooked Indian food, including naan baked on our kiln shelves over the fire, and to celebrate the surprising success of this experiment. It was an unforgettable evening filled with camaraderie, amazing food and shared delight in our achievement!

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At 23 inches tall, 15 inches wide and 39.6 pounds this form is more massive than any previous ceramic work from Ephraim Pottery. We are thrilled and amazed by the first quality results of this ambitious form and excited to offer you the chance to own this historic piece.

Kevin began this form to explore creative boundaries, not thinking at all of the potential profit. We feel tremendously lucky to have received a first quality result from our kiln and wish to share our good fortune. 50% of the sale of this vase will go to charity. To carry on the spirit of Kevin’s original artistic freedom expressed in this dragon we will donate 25% of the proceeds to local youth arts programming (in Lake Mills, WI & Cambria, CA).  In addition to supporting the arts, we feel a strong need to support the hungry in our community. A further 25% will be donated to our local food banks. The remaining 50% will cover shipping costs and the expenses accrued in creating the piece.

The Colossal Dragon Vase Experimental will go to auction on eBay beginning this Friday evening with the auction closing Nov 2.

Update: Thank you everyone for your interest in the Colossal Dragon Vase. The vase fetched $5,487.88 at auction, which means we raised $2,743.94 for charity! We had a lot of fun creating this unique piece and greatly appreciate your positive response to it.

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