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Reflections on 2017 – Pottery is hard!

1. We are human.

Our work will always reflect our uniqueness. Creating at this level is incredibly challenging…and rewarding. Each loss is actually a lesson gained, not a chink in our armor.

2. Pottery is messy.

Our studio is covered in a fine dust of glaze particles, spatterings of wet glaze and smears of wet clay. When we are not creating the messes we are working on the regular equipment repairs and searching for ways to improve our efficiency. Keeping this studio humming along is a collaborative effort – from designing, hand-building, marketing, and order entry to shipping final pieces.  An infinite number of errors could occur, but we give each piece our attention and dedication. Miraculously by the end of the process, the mess gives birth to beauty and we deliver joy to our collectors.

3. Our kilns give us lumps of coal at a regular rate.

Any ceramic artist can relate – a thankfully small – but persistent percentage of breaks, falls, unwanted drips, over-firings, under-firings, etc. are to be expected. This roll of the dice is what gets so many of us geeked! Our standards are extremely high, so the kiln errors also translate into a regular supply of seconds and irregulars available in our Studio Gallery.

4. When the kilns deliver perfectly we still break pots.

After expertly hand painted well over a hundred “snowy birch” ornaments, Leah was devastated to drop and break an entire board of them. Breaks in the galleries are also a bummer…. Whenever possible we have a laugh and make the most of our accidents. Laura has a wonderful habit of turning failed greenware into hideous creatures, which are a peculiar comfort to all of us.

5. We proudly enter our 22nd year of creating this special art pottery called “Ephraim”.

Despite all the challenges or perhaps because of them we continue to be inspired by the ceramic process and driven to advance our collective abilities. We are humbled by our successes and forever grateful for our collectors. It is solely because of your appreciation for this traditional art form that we exist. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your support. Cheers to 2018 and all the joy and new pottery it is sure to bring!

Ephraim Pottery Staff (left to right): Becky Hansen, John Raymond, Kevin Hicks, Leah Purisch, Allison Jelenchick, Shari Little, Ken Nekola, Laura Klein, Sarah FitzGibbon, Jill Winslow, Jennifer Alexander, Alek Schroeder and Nicole Cooke. California staff not shown: Terri Belford, Kathleen Marlo and Lynn Taylor.

 

 

 

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Ephraim Artists: Art of the Gift

Gift giving is on everyone’s mind this time of year and Ephraim artists are no exception. As we busily make the ornaments, vases, and tiles on order for the holidays this year, we contemplate which special gifts we will give our loved-ones.

Each artist has a different take on the art of gift giving. We hope that in sharing these thoughts, we offer some insight into our personalities and maybe even spark a gift-giving idea for you at this important time of year.

Laura: My favorite gifts to give are the ones that I make by hand. My coworker, John, and I have been exchanging handmade gifts for years. We have a lot of fun trying to out do each other and make odd, unique gifts. A couple of years ago I made John a “Disturby” Santa for his tree. A “Disturby” is the word I made up for these disturbing dolls that I make. John has given me jewelry made from deer droppings (which is surprisingly beautiful and, of course, finely crafted), and a skull ornament with a santa hat with deer horns.

Jill: This is my first year working at Ephraim, so I am buying a lot of Ephraim pottery for gifts. I am finding so many different pieces that relate to the interests of many of my friends and family members. I often also shop on Etsy, give experiences, and donate to charities.

Nicole: I have a lot of little ones on my list and love to give them gifts that encourage their budding creative minds: art supplies (big canvases, brushes, old fabrics and thrift store craft finds), legos and vintage musical equipment are tops on my list. Anything that they can get messy with or use to make some funky sounds! For the adults on my list, it’s either pottery 🙂 or experiences – like dinners out together.

Kevin: I try to think ahead when it comes to gift giving and I always try to look for unique things on my travels. I want to buy gifts that are not mass produced. I especially like to find gifts that tell a story and connect to values that are important to me.

Becky: One thing I like to do when I am thinking of gifts for people is to think about their interests and hobbies and then get them a gift that relates to that. For example, my brother and I share a connection and hobby of exploring and hiking. Every year we go backpacking for a few days in Minnesota. I like to find outdoor gear for him that supports his hobby.

Allison: I like to give gifts that inspire creativity. This year I am excited to give my partner a pho cookbook. She loves this soup and we have a running joke about it, so this will be perfectly inspirational and ‘pho’nny as well. Now she can make her own soup!

Jennifer: This year I am giving more experience-related gifts. My nieces and nephews have a lot of toys, so I am excited to give them museum passes and an Ephraim Bloom Workshop gift certificate. Every year I love making Christmas cookies and giving these to all my friends and family.

Alek: I like to buy handmade from local, small shops. These places have unique offerings and pay more attention to small details. I really appreciate that.

Leah: Like many of my friends here at Ephraim, I try to give handmade gifts when I can. The most memorable gifts I have received have been handmade and I want to give people things that are unique and will be cherished. Often these unusual items are either whimsically personal and offbeat or very finely crafted.

Ken: I like to browse bookstores for gifts. I can usually something for the grown-ups as well as the children on my list.

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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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A Beautiful Time to Visit Cambria, California

Five years ago, on a leap of faith, Kevin Hicks, owner of Ephraim Pottery, opened Ephraim Pottery West Gallery in Cambria, CA. California’s Central Coast enchanted him and the beauty – so different from our Wisconsin surrounds – continually inspires us. The locals have been so warm, inviting, and enthusiastic about our art pottery. We feel like Cambria is a hidden treasure that we would love to share with you.

Our gallery manager, Shari Little – a California native and our wonderful ambassador to the area, answers some of our questions and provides a bit of insight into visiting her neck of the woods this season.

Shari Little – West Gallery Manager

Here in Wisconsin the weather is damp and grey in April. How is Cambria in April?

We’ve had over 35 inches of rain this season in Cambria and another storm due here on Friday.  Most people like to visit when it is sunny, which it typically is, so they can do all the outside activities – biking, kayaking, walking, hiking, paddle boarding, etc.  The positive side of all the rain is that it has brought our flowers early and lots of them.  I had a customer in this morning who shared some pictures of the Poppy Reserve she had just visited. 

Craftsman Poppy Vase in teal & Pacific Poppies Bud Vase.

Heavy rain has caused problems with roads and bridges in the area. How has that affected tourism?

I’ve spoken with other business owners here and we all agree that we’ve seen a very significant slow down because of the Big Sur – Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge collapse on HWY 1.  Right now, there is nothing but parking everywhere – East Village is the same.  If anyone would like to visit this time of year, they’ll have the towns to themselves with plenty of parking (unlike Summertime).

What are the must-see stops for visitors to the Central Coast?

If you have a day or a weekend to visit Cambria our sunny West Village gallery is a must stop. Here you will find an ever-changing offering of handmade art pottery, art tiles, woodwork and Arts & Crafts style furnishings. Our neighboring shops and eateries also have quality goods to offer, plenty to make for an enjoyable day of leisure!

While in Cambria there is great hiking and walking along the boardwalk next to the ocean at Fiscalini Ranch. Very nearby in San Simeon, there is a great spot to view the elephant seals. Also, a tour of the famous Hearst Castle never disappoints. Just south of us, Avila Beach is the warmest beach on the coast and is an upscale town with a golf course and a working pier. Nearby San Luis Obispo also has wonderful shopping and a fabulous night farmer’s market on Thursdays.

Fiscalini Ranch Preserve in Cambria, CA
Cambria coastline
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