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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).

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.

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Making the Wildflower Vase: a short video documents the process

The Wildflower Vase is one of 6 pieces from the new limited-edition 2018 Spring Collection (available for order through May 11, 2018). This piece incorporates many fine details and intricacies that we documented for you to see in this short video. We hope you enjoy watching a sampling of the mesmerizing processes involved in creating this wonderful vase.

Shop the Wildflower Vase

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Historic Muses: How the early 20th c. Marblehead Pottery inspired Ephraim’s Rhythm Line

The Historic Marblehead Pottery

Marblehead Pottery, named after the small harbor town, Marblehead, Massachusetts, originated in 1904 as a small operation that served as art therapy for the patients in the local sanitarium. However, in 1905, Arthur Baggs purchased the pottery and turned it into a small production pottery studio, that created the recognizable, quintessential Marblehead-style pieces. The studio never employed more than 6 people. Their small output and refined design aesthetic make these pieces special among Arts and Crafts pottery collectors.

Historic Marblehead Pottery

What is special about Marblehead Pottery?

We admire Marblehead’s refined – almost modern – aesthetic. Their glazes are tight, but not rigid, and their pieces have a simple softness that comes from the lightly incised lines and tonal, stony glaze palette. From a ceramic artist’s perspective they were making something truly special and truly difficult to replicate.

From inspiration to aptitude – a decade of trial and error

Nothing could have been more challenging to recreate than Marblehead’s style. Our high relief sculpture and flowing glazes are so different from techniques and materials that Marblehead employed. Perhaps that challenge made the endeavor so enticing! Running glazes mean that we always avoid horizontal lines, which tend to become obscured when the glaze flows over them in the kiln. In early Marblehead attempts we thinned out the glaze in order to apply it in a scant-dipped coat. To no avail. The glazes still ran over the black lines. For the next attempts we reformulated the glazes to run less by removing some of the glazes’ flux. But then our surfaces lacked interest and looked stagnant. It wasn’t until we learned how to spray our glazes (about 5 years ago) that we finally had a solution. With a spraying technique we can apply our inherently interesting glazes thin enough so that they don’t run and cause the decoration to bleed.

A new bag of tricks = an expanded body of work

We finally conquered our materials. This process has led to an avenue of exploration that we proudly see as expanding on the great Marblehead’s legacy, but with an Ephraim twist.

 

 

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Bold Design + Simplicity

Sometimes the holy grail of making successful art involves marrying bold design with simplicity. We think about the elements of design all day, every day in the studio.

Here are some of the lessons we have learned over the years for achieving great design in ceramics:

  1. It is important to notice subtleties of form, especially in terms of the line formed by the edge – where the vessel meets the background. Most people don’t think about the artistic element of line when they think about pottery, but line is a critical factor in refined, well-designed pottery.
  2. Bold design is confident. In the same way fluidity and confidence result in a good golf stroke, a fast and fluid pull on the potter’s wheel produces a more confident form. It helps to trust the broad physical motions of throwing pottery and resist the urge to spend a lot of time perfecting a form inch-by-inch.
  3. Often (but not always!) odd numbers make elegant design sense. Likewise, applying the rule of thirds to a piece of art can be a successful tactic. Always be careful about adding design elements that break at the vertical middle of the form as this divides the form in half and disrupts the eye.
  4. Simplicity doesn’t mean simple or even minimal. While simplicity and minimalism can indeed work nicely together, we usually characterize pieces that maximize simplicity as also being well-unified. Sometimes we achieve successful unity through repeating patterns and other times we achieve it through harmonious glazing schemes.
    Lyrical Poppy Vase
    Living Fossil Vase
    Giboshi Lantern

    Victory Falls Vase – Limited Edition 2017 Fall Collection – Retired