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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Limited Edition Designs

In the Making of the Stillness Vase

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Kevin Hicks throwing the Stillness Vase
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Leah Purisch glazing the Stillness Vase
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Stillness Vase $218

In the making of the Treasure Ornament

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Ken Nekola throwing the Treasure Ornament
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Ken Nekola sculpting the Treasure Ornament
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Treasure Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Treasure Ornament $128

In the making of the Gathering Vase – Winter Holiday Series Numbered Edition of 85

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Kevin Hicks throwing a Gathering Vase
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Laura Klein sculpting the Gathering Vase
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Gathering Vase
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection + Winter Holiday Series – Gathering Vase $328

In the making of the Beekeeper’s Ornament

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Ken Nekola throwing the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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Ken Nekola sculpting the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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Allison Jelenchick glazing the Beekeeper’s Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Beekeeper’s Ornament $50

In the making of the Toadstool Ornament

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Alek Schroeder throwing the Toadstool Ornament
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Alek Schroeder sculpting the Toadstool Ornament
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Jennifer Grelk glazing the Toadstool Ornament
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20th Anniversary Winter Collection – Toadstool Ornament $50 – Snow, Indigo & Sand

 

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Jewelry Collaboration with Michael Thee Studio

Introducing “Glaze drop Jewels” a new line of jewelry made exclusively for Ephraim by Michael Thee and Mary Wohlgemuth of Michael Thee Studio.

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In the 20 years that we have been making our own glazes they have been flowing off or our pots and pooling in beautiful “drops” on our kiln shelves. We have marveled at these unique by-products of our process and dreamed of someday utilizing them. Then this summer we met jewelry artists Michael Thee and Mary Wohlgemuth of Michael Thee Studio. They were not only enthusiastically open to working with our “rare gems,” but their wonderful handmade aesthetic and shared value of working collaboratively make us proud to work with them and showcase their art.

Ephraim’s glazes, a signature element of our pottery, are unconventional in that they have been designed to flow. Most potters use stagnant glazes because flowing glazes present such a multitude of difficulties. Yet we find that the rich character and surface quality that exists as a result of the flowing glazes far out weigh the problems. In order to work with these glazes, we suspend the pots in the kiln on a stilt over a kiln shelf. As the glazes flow in the firing they run off the foot of the pot and pool in drops on the kiln shelves. We then grind the bottom of the pot to remove the vitrified drips of glaze on the foot.

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After we remove all of the pots from the kiln, 6 shelves – all spotted with unique glaze drops – remain. We scrape these drops from the shelves, apply a new layer of kiln wash – a coating that protects our shelves from the daily glaze drops – and we admire and collect the uniquely beautiful glaze drops during this process. Inevitably new glaze combinations produce unusual looking drops, which creates an additional level of excitement in the studio. As Kevin often points out, “that glaze drop is rarer than a diamond,” and with all these beautiful specimens piling up around the studio we simply had to find a way to exhibit them.

That is where the award-winning jewelry artists Mary and Michael come in. We met Mary and Michael at the Lake Mills Arts Festival. Their jewelry and metalwork stood out to us as exceptionally well rendered and incredibly inventive. Mary and Michael gravitate to organic themes like trees, leaves, and stars in much of their work. They also playfully incorporate historical architectural design elements into their work, mingling organic and industrial-inspired motifs. Their work with these familiar themes means that we have a shared aesthetic and because we speak this same language, they are perfect collaborators. Here Michael and Mary are shown working in their Milwaukee jewelry studio.

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2016 Artist Anniversary Series

It is our tradition at Ephraim Pottery for artists to commemorate a milestone at the studio with a special design. Celebrating their anniversaries this year are Leah Purisch, 5 years; Becky Hansen, 10 years; John Raymond, 15 years; and Kevin Hicks, 20 years.

Ephraim Pottery is defined by the sensibilities and honed techniques of each of our members. It is a beautiful—and novel—model for an art pottery, as both new and veteran artists exert a symbiotic influence on one another. We grow and evolve through our collaborations; building and refining our common aesthetic to create innovative, fresh artwork.

Leah Purisch
Little did Leah know that her early years growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio would provide a great foundation for the path that lay ahead. Cincinnati—the hometown of the historic Rookwood Pottery—provided a catalyst for Leah’s later interest in art pottery. Leah’s circuitous path to Ephraim began with a childhood interest in art, followed by a BAand MA in Art History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After college Leah focused on oil painting and a display of her portrait work caught Kevin’s attention in a local Lake Mills art gallery. A short time later, a chance meeting brought her to the pottery and that connection sparked an idea for a new kind of collaboration for Leah and Ephraim.

Without any ceramic experience, Leah and Kevin undertook this collaboration tentatively and with an open mind. In short order, Leah’s amiable spirit, artistic skills, and passion for design work made her fit right in. Her affinity for historic art styles and practices, specifically her quest to design scenic vases, has contributed to many new avenues of artistic exploration for Ephraim in the five years since she joined the studio. Today her low relief, painterly style is instantly recognizable and widely admired by our collectors. In the studio Leah is a dynamic force of creative energy, supportively inspiring others to dream, play and experiment—to push past perceived boundaries and freely explore their artistic expression.

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Provence Cypress Vase

Becky Hansen
A required art credit for a business degree changed the trajectory of Becky Hansen’s life. This ceramics class ignited an interest in pottery that began as a hobby but eventually grew into Becky’s career at Ephraim. While living in Colorado Becky took a summer job throwing demonstration pots for Van Briggle Pottery, which later turned into a full-time position. There Becky gained experience in many realms of pottery making—throwing, glazing, slip casting, pressing tile, and making clay. As she became more involved in the small world of art pottery, Becky began hearing about Ephraim’s model of employing artists to work together hand throwing and sculpting pottery. Our studio appealed to her sensibilities—she liked the concept of more people involved in the design processes as well as the idea of creating new designs versus reproductions. Becky reached out to Kevin and the rest is history.

Becky is a steady and positive force in the studio. Her fun sense of humor and sincere, kind demeanor make our little pottery a happy place to be. Becky’s innovations and artistry in the glazing department have brought us popular glaze combinations such as ‘light stone,’ ‘dusky olive’, ‘autumn reflections,’ and ‘glacial.’ Becky has also designed and sculpted several Studio Collection pieces over the years, including “Maybells” and the “Oak Cabinet Vase”. As Becky rounds out her first ten years at Ephraim, we are so pleased that she found our studio and intrigued by the possibilities of what she will come up with next.

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Fuchsia Vase

John Raymond
Fifteen years ago John came to the fledgling Ephraim Pottery in a leap of faith. As Ephraim grew from a very small studio to a bigger operation, the pottery needed a knowledgeable studio foreman to manage everything from glazes to kiln firings, and Kevin knew no one was better suited than John for this job. Tinkering, repairing, repurposing came naturally to John—even as a small child he remembers fixing lamps and other household items for his parents. To Ephraim’s good fortune, John took a chance with us and his hard work and ingenuity have contributed immensely to the studio’s success.

John has an MFA from The Art Institute of Chicago and has spent most of his career in the ceramic field. Three years ago, in support of John’s passion for woodworking, Ephraim branched out with him to establish a wood shop and offer handmade wood items to our customers. The change from ceramic to wood was a seamless endeavor because the central feature of John’s art is craftsmanship. His meticulous and uncompromising sensibilities enable him to create beautiful wood objects made with the very highest standards.

John carries his adherence to craftsmanship through every aspect of his life and work. His devotion to excellence can be seen in the smallest details—from the tools that he creates for the pottery to the guides that he makes for his wood shop to the sketches and architectural drawings used to track his ideas. Ultimately these objects reflect a sense of caring—a conscientiousness about himself and his surroundings—about life in general.

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American Craftsman Wall Shelf

Kevin Hicks
Kevin had always been drawn to the art room in school—a space where artists worked side-by-side and naturally collaborated. That clubhouse atmosphere inspired him to create a ceramic studio where craftspeople had input into the artistic side of the products.

Twenty years ago Kevin Hicks founded Ephraim Pottery. Here he sought to merge the traditional production pottery studio model of the past with the modern autonomy of the individual artist. The result has been a unique hybrid—a place where ideas are shared, gathered and developed as a group.

Above all Kevin enjoys the process of making things by hand. The first time Kevin watched an artist throw a pot on the wheel he felt transcended and that ignited a fierce desire to learn more. Nearly every day of the week—including weekends—you’ll find Kevin creating at the studio where his focus is on pioneering new techniques for throwing and sculpting vases. He thrives on engineering ways to throw bigger and more complex pieces.

His determination has translated into mastery. Today he is a captivating thrower to observe, a veteran himself, inspiring a new generation of potters. After over 30 years of throwing Kevin still asserts that “Ceramics is a never-ending source of inspiration. The more I work in ceramics the more ideas flourish.”

Kevin wants every piece that comes out of the studio to display the hand of the maker. His affinity for a handmade aesthetic drives him to lean away from technologies that remove the artist’s hands from the work. Twenty years in business—no small feat for an art studio—reinforces that Kevin’s unifying vision to facilitate humble collaboration among artists and elevate a handmade aesthetic is a recipe for success.

Anniversary Rose Vase shown with the Noble Dragonfly Vase & Revival Rose Vase
Anniversary Rose Vase – shown with the Noble Dragonfly Vase & Revival Rose Vase
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Celebrating 20 years – Limited Edition Spring Collection

Spring is (almost) here and so is our newest collection of pottery. This collection, the first of four collections we will create this year to celebrate our 20th anniversary, explores spring motifs and represents the first 5 years of Ephraim Pottery’s history. In this collection we proudly see a cohesive grouping that references our past, yet exemplifies our continuous artistic growth. These special pieces will be available from the studio until April 30, 2016.

As the studio brainstormed, designed and created these seasonal collections, we reflected on the tremendous growth that has emerged from 20 years of potting, sculpting, glazing, making, evolving, growing, and collaborating. We are so appreciative of all the friendships, partnerships, & supportive patronage that have allowed our studio to thrive and grow over the last 20 years.

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The Mechanics of Innovation – Kevin’s Lamp

Innovation often starts with a question. Several years ago, Ephraim artist, Kevin Hicks wondered if it would be technically possible to hand throw a functional lampshade on his potters’ wheel. Initially Kevin and the rest of the studio had a hard time imagining the practicality of a ceramic lampshade. Would it be too heavy for traditional lamp hardware to support the weight of the ceramic material? What good is an opaque lampshade?

Antique Fulper Mushroom lamps provided some context for a ceramic lampshade. In the case of Fulper, they conquered the opacity problem by incorporating small pieces of glass into the ceramic shade. Kevin, however, wanted a lamp that would put out more light.

After several failed attempts – some shades warped in the drying process; others dripped in the kiln during the glaze firing – Kevin formed and Jennifer glazed a single, true/round, perfectly glazed large-scale lampshade. With the help of some heavy-handed topological geometry, John figured out how to cut, shape, fit and secure three pieces of mica to the shade.

The result – a surprisingly light, yet visually substantial – thoroughly Arts and Crafts Ephraim lamp! The studio could not be more pleased with how this project turned out. This one and only and first-of-a-kind lamp debuts Feb 19th at the National Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina. If you are attending the show, come by our booth and have a look.

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Jennifer holds the newly glazed lampshade while discussing designs with Leah & Kevin.
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First Ephraim Pottery ceramic & mica lampshade with ceramic base, $1,400.

 

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Celebrating 20 years!

Interview: Kevin Hicks, potter and founder of Ephraim Pottery

Ephraim Pottery—a unique studio with a modern twist on the Arts and Crafts Movement—celebrates 20 years.Web

20 years ago, with the rise of the cubicle and mass produced goods, Kevin Hicks revered a time when people made objects by hand. Hicks, a skilled potter with a business degree, imagined a modern artisan guild where collaboration could thrive and handmade products showed the hand of the maker. To glean a little insight into what the past 20 years have involved, we sat down with Hicks, who reflects on Ephraim Pottery’s past, present and future.

What originally inspired you to start your own pottery?

I was always drawn to the art room in school. After hours, these art studios were transformed into spaces where artists worked side-by-side and naturally collaborated. That clubhouse atmosphere inspired me to create a ceramic studio where craftspeople had input into the artistic side of the designs. I wanted to merge the traditional factory/production pottery studio model of the past with the modern autonomy of the individual artist. Ephraim’s studio is a unique hybrid—a place where ideas are shared, gathered, and developed as a group.

What part of the art form do you find the most gratifying?

Just like back in art school, I still find it incredibly gratifying to see artists working together and succeeding in creating beautiful, well-made works of art. As a potter I see throwing forms as creating ‘great bones’—a solid foundation—on which sculptors and glazers are free to complete the design. The pot is really symbolic of the framework of the pottery itself. It is gratifying to offer a good structure, but it takes all of my other collaborators to bring life to the structure.

How would you describe Ephraim Pottery’s aesthetic?

Our aesthetic above all is one where the hand of the maker is evident. Each piece can have its own style, but the pieces are unified by the process of being hand thrown, sculpted and finished with our in-house designed glazes. We purposely lean away from technologies that remove the artists’ hands from the work such as slip casting, use of moulds, ram pressing, and computer aided transfer methods.

What have you learned over the last 20 years?

Ceramics is a never ending source of inspiration. The more I work in ceramics, the more ideas flourish. Also, as we expand our studio and encounter new artists, their new perspectives open us up to fresh avenues of exploration. We recently hired two new young artists. They are a whole generation apart and it is rejuvenating and refreshing to be collaborating with them.

What’s next?

Right now is a profound time of appreciation. We have spent the last 20 years refining our collaboration model and the mood in the studio is dynamic and thriving. The future seems as wide open as it has ever been. I suppose the next chapter involves broadening our model. We have begun this recently by mixing the creative roles in the studio with the more traditional business roles. The lines are blurring and I am very optimistic about where this openness and collaboration will lead.

What are your inspirations from the past?

My earliest influence was Grueby. There is just something about Grueby’s art with the subtle sculpting and decoration and the very rich, organic glazes that looks so different than other potteries.

How do you think Grueby or others from the Arts & Crafts era would view your endeavor?

That’s tough. Let me think of it this way: If someone in the future were to continue this lifestyle and try to push the boundaries of our style and techniques, I would be pleased. I like to think that the potteries of the past would appreciate that we are furthering some of their ideals. At the same time, we are a unique reflection of what our society values now.

Shown with 2 early Ephraim vases: #728 Trumpet Vase & #806 Arrowroot Vase

In celebration of this momentous year we will give away these Commemorative 20th Anniversary Tiles to the first online orders with cart totals over $200 from Jan 29th – Feb 1st! As an added gift, these free tiles will also be hand signed by all 8 Ephraim ceramic studio artists.

The limited edition Commemorative 20th Anniversary tile design will be available for purchase ($55) through the rest of 2016. This spring glaze option (shown above) will be created in aqua. We will introduce new glaze colors for summer, fall & winter.