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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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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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5 Reasons to Collect Ephraim’s new Spring Pottery

  1. Our seasonal collections are created in very limited quantities – on average less than one piece per state. Because the artists in the studio thrive on designing new pieces, creating them for a short time and then move on to explore new designs, these small collections are authentically limited by the number we can make by hand in these short windows of time.
  2. These particular designs will never be offered again and in this collection there are some very fine, pivotal, and unusual aspects to each of the pieces.
  3. Many of these build on Ephraim’s work from years past and would be wonderful additions to expand an existing collection. For example, the last two years in the spring we have created a limited edition frog vase and the Mill Pond Frog adds to this tradition. Where’s the Nuthatch vase is a transitional piece that fits in with our “Marblehead” line of pottery, which includes the Anniversary Rose and Revival Rose pieces from our Studio Collection. The Bonny Bluebells vase incorporates our rarely utilized snow glaze and could incorporate nicely with other snow-glazed pieces. The Southern Magnolia represents a departure with an unusual form, as does the Nodding Crocus Vase.
  4. We designed a new shop mark for the bottom of limited-edition collections this year. The mark, designed by Kevin, represents the Earth with rays of sun shining from behind our planet. The mark symbolizes the seasons as the sun moves around the Earth. We will use this new stamp, along with our Ephraim Pottery 2017 mark, for all the pieces in our Seasonal Collections.
  5. Financial advisors often recommend diversifying a portfolio with investment in high quality art. While investing in Ephraim’s highly collectible pottery you are also supporting the evolution of our mission – working collaboratively by hand, providing a living wage and sustainable model for artists.
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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.