Posted on

Connect with us, share your photos on Instagram

Share the love. Join the conversation.
#myephraimpottery

You are invited to join the Ephraim Pottery Instagram community, a network of art pottery enthusiasts who share their love about living artfully in the modern world.

To join simply post a photo of your Ephraim pottery with the hashtag #myephraimpottery and tell us what EFP means to you. Have fun and show your sense of style!

Posted on

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.

Web
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.
Web
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.
ColassalDragon_4
The Colossal Dragon Vase dried for over a month in our humidity controlled tent. Shown here beside a Walden Pond.
Web
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.
Web
The Colossal Dragon was bisque fired with another experimental dragon vase.
Web
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.

 

Web
Kevin Hicks and Jennifer Grelk inspect the interior glaze application.
Web
Jennifer Grelk applied the base layer of sprayed glaze.
Web
Jennifer spray glazing the base layer of glaze.
Web
Allison Jelenchick applying a speckle coating of glaze to create a dramatic finish.
Web
Allison glazing a “Petite Violet Bowl” while Jennifer applies the brushed glaze to the sculpture.
Web
Jennifer Grelk applying the many intricate glaze elements to the dragon.
Web
Jennifer glazed the dragon in pumpkin, grey, black & sun.
Web
Loading into the glaze firing was less challenging since the form was stronger from the earlier bisque firing.
Web
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!

colossaldragon_revealatleahsparty-11

Web

Web

Web

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.

ColossalDragon_eBay

Posted on

John – at home

As part of our continuing “Living an Artful Life” series we are featuring Ephraim artist John Raymond this week. In addition to 2016 marking our 20th anniversary, this year we are also celebrating John’s 15 years working as an Ephraim artist. His innovative ideas, thoughtful design work and unparalleled craftsmanship were utilized in the glazing department initially, but more recently John has been the inspirational force behind our woodworking studio. He moved away from the glazing department and developed the wood shop in 2013. Currently, John designs and produces all of the wood items we offer. Clearly the way in which John lives – which is to spend his time taking care of his old farmstead, exploring the way things work, collecting objects of intrigue and building his own (anything) with his bare hands – directly supports his mastery of woodworking.

John_LivingAnArtfulLife

Web

When did you first begin to explore woodworking?

It has been a long time! In high school I helped take down an old barn for my Aunt. She gave me some of the barn boards and I used them to build shelves & furniture. At that time my buddies would come over and say “let’s go do something” and I would be too busy working with my dad’s tools, the lathe and such, to socialize. Eventually they started to say “Raymond is always in the basement doing something”.

john_livinganartfullife2-01

What is it about your collected jeeps and old bicycles that originally sparked your interest?

Well after I graduated from high school I decided to do 2 years of automotive training and 2 years of art. The automotive coursework was focused on theory and that really fit well for me. I like gasoline engines and built a high end double engine go-cart when I was 15. Once I had my driver’s license my interest grew. A friend returned to Cambridge (WI, my hometown) with a jeep and I completely fell in love. While my parents were away for the weekend one time I bought a jeep of my own. I had to bring it home on a wrecker, but had it running in weeks. My love of bikes also goes back to high school when 10 speeds were the new cool thing. I bought my first bike in ’72 for $200, a very good bike at the time. I then started to collect vintage bikes.

John_LivingAnArtfulLife4
John maintains the woods and trails on his land, has planted a Christmas tree farm and has a sizable wood collection to draw from. His frisky dog, Coco, is a dedicated companion.
Web
John converted the original pig barn into useable storage for gardening tools and built a rain water collection system on the structure.

What are your next projects?

What I enjoy most is a challenge. I really thrive on designing, building and testing. Attending shows and viewing antiques spurs my imagination. Basic clean design work, like Stickley designs, appeal to me. I do not care for overly decorative work. At Ephraim I am always looking into ways of improving my wood designs. One example is with the tile stands – it would be great if I could come up with a folding tile stand that would ship flat.  At home I still have the go-cart I built as a teen in the attic. Someone wanted to buy it recently, but I couldn’t let it go. Probably in retirement I will work on it again.

Web
The southern WI land surrounding John’s place (and also the Ephraim Pottery studio & wood shop) is biodiverse, healthy and very green in the warm months. It is truly an easy place to live connected with nature.

Web

 

 

Posted on

Jennifer in her garden

This week we are profiling one of our master glazers, Jennifer Grelk, who is also an avid gardener. It is currently peak summer season in Wisconsin and the lovely weather has produced high yields. Jennifer is known to share the bounty of the season with the staff at Ephraim and fill our kitchen with fresh greens, watermelons, preserves and all sorts of delicious garden experiments. We are the sort of people who love to share. The studio is a place where ice cream bars, fresh eggs, furniture or other random finds are commonly offered. The land where Jennifer grows her garden is owned by our wood artist, John Raymond. It is the perfect use of his old farmstead and an idyllic meeting place for friends to gather.

Web

How does your time in the garden enhance your abilities as an artist?

Our pottery largely features natural motifs and by working directly – planting, tending and harvesting those exact elements, I have the best possible understanding of their intricacies. In growing my own nasturtiums I gained an intimate understanding of them which allowed me to design a successful Artist Anniversary Series piece – the “Nasturtium Pitcher” (May 2015- May 2016). I find similarities in how I need to plan and organize for both gardening and glazing. Both activities are calming, yet expressive and highly enjoyable. In previous years I have focused on growing mainly vegetables and herbs, but this year I have really expanded the variety of  florals that I am growing to include more Ephraim flowers, like coneflowers, heirloom nasturtiums, and sunflowers.

Web

Web

Web

 

Web
Jennifer has a few bisque ware seconds scattered in the garden which add huge charm to the garden!

How did you become interested in becoming a ceramic artist?

From a very young age, I was always drawn to art and when asked the ubiquitous question: what do you want to be when you grow up? – I consistently answered “an artist”. However, as I grew older I feared that that would not be an attainable goal. That’s until I found Ephraim Pottery. I was also very fortunate to attend a high school with a strong arts curriculum – especially in ceramics. I received exposure to a wide variety of ceramic methods  – both brushing and spraying glaze applications, use of blow torches, low fire glazes, high fire glazes, you name it! This early exposure helped me get a start at Ephraim. Since that time I have had so many gains in my understanding of glaze knowledge through my search for innovative avenues and also as a result of the widely varied custom order requests. These new discoveries are hugely rewarding.

Web

Would you share a favorite recipe for preserving the flavors of the garden?

Sure! A current favorite is my “Spicy Dilly Bean” recipe. I’m also about to try “Pickled Spicy Asian Carrots” that I’m guessing is going to be amazing on noodle bowls. I like trying different vinegars, like apple cider vinegar, as well as experimenting with herb blends instead of dill.

Spicy Dilly Beans

  • 3 pounds green beans
  • 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons pickling salt
  • 5 medium cloves garlic
  • 5 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
  • 5 teaspoons red chili flakes
  1. Prepare a boiling water bath and 5 regular mouth pint jars. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the pickles.
  2. Wash and trim beans so that they fit in jar. If you have particularly long beans, cut them in half. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While the pickling liquid heats, pack your beans into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch for headspace. To each jar, add 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon dill seeds, and 1 teaspoon red chili flakes.
  3. Slowly pour the hot brine over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch for headspace. After all the jars are full, use a wooden chopstick to work the air bubbles out of the jars. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.
  4. Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let pickles sit for at least one week before eating.

Web

Thank you and enjoy the rest of this energetic season!

Posted on

Ephraim’s Vision: A Living Wage for Artists

Visitors to Ephraim’s studio and galleries often ask questions about how we price our pottery and how a business like ours operates in general. Because we have a unique business model that we feel works well and could work well for other artists too, we wanted to share some of the answers to these frequently asked questions.

How does Ephraim price pottery?

Pricing art may seem arbitrary to some of our customers, but at Ephraim we must balance wages, material costs, and other overhead. For this reason, we price in a consistent, predictable way. Because the majority of the cost of making our pieces comes from labor, we time ourselves as we develop new pottery. The price of our pottery directly relates to how long the piece takes to produce in order to pay our artists a base living wage. Because we price with a goal to come out even, we rarely discount our pottery. If however, we do see a profit at the end of the year, the employees share in this as well.

Is Ephraim a collective of artists?

We do not think of ourselves as a collective. A collective, by our thinking, would be a group of artists that work in the same space and perhaps share an umbrella of marketing/office overhead. In this scenario, each artist still independently creates their own art and is paid according to how much of their art sells in a direct way. At Ephraim, however, our artists, as well as our marketing/office staff, work together on a singular vision. When we release a grouping of pottery, we have brainstormed the ideas together and taken into careful consideration the balance of the work required to make those pieces. In this way, all of us have a roughly even amount of work moving through the system and everyone depends on everyone else.

Does Ephraim pay artists and other employees a living wage?

Yes. The sustainability of a living a wage has been a goal from the outset. In 1996 when Kevin Hicks opened the pottery, he had a vision to provide a structure for talented artists in which they could make art and depend on year-round employment. From his background as a production potter, Hicks saw that among his fellow potters and other artist friends that there existed a pervasive challenge to live on artists’ wages, primarily because of the seasonality of the business. Hicks had three primary goals for his fledgling art studio:

1. There would be no seasonal lay-offs
2. Every employee would have a voice in the art and the business
3. These jobs would be as professional as any other, offering support in the form of healthcare, paid vacation, and retirement

What are the benefits of Ephraim’s sustainability model?

Ephraim has been a 20 year experiment and the results have been undeniably positive. As a result of our model we experience very low turnover and a great amount of personal investment from our employees. We are especially happy to see our employees and their families benefiting from a sense of stability. Mostly, though, it is rewarding to see artists make a lifelong career of simply being an artist – a career that most people don’t realize exists in the realm of possibility.Web

Web

pizza

pizza

Web

Posted on

Rhinoceros Beetle Redux – An old theme revisited

Web
Rhinoceros Beetle Redux in blue curdle shown with 2 retired early beetle vases – #118 Climbing Beetle Vase & Miniature Special Edition of #010 Rhinoceros Beetle. Just five of the mini special editions were made.
Web
A clipping from the Wisconsin State Journal & an image from the 2000 catalog which included the first “Rhinoceros Beetle Vase”.

Ephraim Pottery made its first Rhinoceros Beetle vase in the year 2000. Remember Y2K, hanging chads, the first season of Survivor?

The first Rhinoceros beetle vase, inspired by the success of our early bat pieces, represented an initial departure for the studio from our reproduction style of pottery. The great success of this piece spurned even more experimentation with new nature themes leading us to spider, salamanders, octopuses, seahorses, koi, birds, etc. With this pivotal piece, a world of possibilities opened before us.

Throwback2000-1
Kevin Hicks working at the farm in 2000.

In 2000 Ephraim’s studio was at “the Farm.” Kevin recalls that back in those days we were very close to nature. The pole barn that housed the studio had walls but didn’t exactly keep nature or the weather completely out. Just outside the door nature was on full display with woodlands and marshes surrounding the rural farm. The Farm was a great place to be inspired by nature.

Throwback2000-3
Laura Klein & Kevin Hicks at the farm in 2000.

Reminiscing is a funny thing. In some ways it seems like yesterday and in some ways it seems like a lifetime has passed. Makes a person wonder: what will our little pottery look like 16 years from now?