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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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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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We Proudly Present Archive Editions Textiles – now online!

Ephraim Pottery vases shown on an Archive Editions Textile.

Ephraim and Archive Editions – a long-standing friendship

Ephraim has offered Archive Edition textiles in our galleries from the beginning. We met Paul Freeman, owner, and founder of Archive Edition Textiles, over twenty years ago at Arts and Crafts trade shows around the country. Our mutual love for Arts and Crafts era decorative arts led us on parallel paths of collecting originals and then reproducing Arts and Crafts Revival pieces. Kevin and Paul formed a friendship at these shows and always made a point of getting together after the show for dinner, where they compared notes about owning a small arts-based business. Kevin has personally collected Archive Edition Textiles for his home and sees them as an ideal complement for Ephraim’s pottery.

Archive Edition – an aesthetic of excellent and the perfect ‘soft landing’ for your ceramic collection

Paul’s discerning eye for authentic Arts and Crafts textile designs, colors, and quality is unmatched. Paul says, “Throughout my life, I have been continuously inspired by William Morris and hope to embody his spirit in all of our textiles.” Archive Edition Textiles represent a gold standard in Arts and Crafts design. We are so pleased to be able to share these wonderful textiles – which create the perfect soft landing for our pottery – in our galleries and now online!

Soaring Tulip runners - available in 4' and 6' lengths.
Soaring Tulip runners – available in 4′ and 6′ lengths.
Field Lily runners - available in 4' and 6' lengths.
Field Lily runners – available in 4′ and 6′ lengths.

 

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Creative Process: Making Miniatures

A History of Making Miniatures

Before Ephraim Pottery, potters Kevin Hicks and Ken Nekola, made miniature pottery as part of their work at Rowe Pottery. Rowe had a line of miniatures and sold doll tea sets to the Pleasant Company (American Girl Doll). Miniature-making required a special skill set and when it came time for Hicks to start Ephraim Pottery, he earned extra money working as an independent potter for the “Miniature Pottery” in Edgerton, WI.

Ornaments lead to Miniatures

Hicks’ and Nekola’s experience making miniatures eventually translated into hand-thrown ornaments at Ephraim. The ornaments, in turn, led to occasional experimentation with one-of-a-kind miniature vases. The finely-wrought details and demands in firing present a unique challenge that has taken the studio years to overcome. To date Ephraim has only managed to offer three miniature designs in short-run, limited-editions – all in the last 5 or 6 years.

Little Details make Divine Miniatures

This year, thanks to our master kiln-loader, Alek Schroeder, the fine motor sculpting skills of Ken Nekola and Laura Klein, and the amazing attention to detail and quality of our glazers, Jennifer Alexander, Becky Hansen, and Allison Jelenchick we are able to present you with three miniature designs in multiple glazing options. We are especially proud of the intricate details encompassed in this collection and hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Four new limited edition Miniature New Frond Vases from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase, $148 each or $542 for the Collection of 4. Organic Green, Pacific Batik, Algae & Autumn Reflections.
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase.
Limited Edition – Miniature New Frond Vase. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Allison Jelenchick and Jill Winslow.


Five new limited-edition Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl, $168 each or $790 for the Collection of 5. Algae, Teal, Leaf Green, Pacific Batik & Autumn Wheat.
Limited Edition – Miniature Dancing Dragonflies Bowl. Thrown and sculpted by Ken Nekola. Glazed by Becky Hansen.


New limited-edition Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase from Ephraim Pottery
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase, $178
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase
Limited Edition – Miniature Sweet Magnolia Vase. Thrown and sculpted by Kevin Hicks. Glazed by Jennifer Alexander.


 

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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.