One summer I took a class at an art center near our home in Detroit. The teacher was excellent, but as I gained in skill and realized how much there was yet to learn,I understood that I would never be able to learn it there ,where students were not allowed to participate in firings or learn about glazes. Another student told me about Pewabic, an old art pottery in Detroit where I could take classes. MORE ABOUT PEWABIC
The next summer I was able to take a class at Pewabic ,eventually quitting quit my teaching job so that I could study full time. Open studio was almost 24/7. I was mastering throwing, loading and firing kilns, making glazes and with friends, mixing up batches of porcelain to see which recipes we liked.
Talented people from a wide area were attracted to the vibrant atmosphere established by our teacher Jim Powell, a recent Cranbrook graduate. Many were practicing artists and art school graduates. I was to understand only later, how unique it was that we freely shared information with each other and collaborated on projects.
The program at Pewabic was non degree and because so many people wanted to get in, students were limited to three years. I soon had an infant daughter to take care of and knowing that my time at the pottery was ending I installed a wheel and kiln in my laundry room. I did my last firing just before my second child was born.
I had done enough work with porcelain to know that that I wanted to continue with that exclusively. I would also be limited to firing in oxidation for the first time,but I had no other choice. Making the transition to oxidation glazes would be extremely difficult because not only was so little information available but the prevailing bias was for high fire reduction and the so called "functional" pot. Oxidation firing and glazes were considered amateurish. Wonderful work in oxidation was being done by British potters but little of that information had crossed the pond. It's hard for people to understand in these days of the internet how limited information was then.
Fortunately, Jim Powell had taught us glaze testing and made it almost a sacred duty to include test tiles in every firing. One of the colleges near me was firing in cone 6 oxidation, but I found the glazes disappointing. The glaze chemistry was also too different from what I knew. I was able to adept a clear cone 6 recipe to work at cone 9/10 in oxidation and combing through old books at the library found a white matte glaze that worked well. Some Pewabic recipies, especially the saturated iron glazes worked quite well.
While at Pewabic ,I had mastered throwing but I had NEVER mastered glazing. I'm not talking about application, I mean using a glaze to enhance a piece. Too often, I would be very pleased with my bisqued work, only to want to throw it in the trash after it came out of the glaze kiln. I simply did not know how to keep the glaze from fighting the form. Then, in my basement "studio", exploring form in porcelain and limited to only two glazes, I realized that I needed to be bold enough not decorate, to think of the glaze simply as a "finish" and to let the forms speak for themselves. This was a huge breakthrough for me and the beginning of my personal style.
MY FIRST REAL STUDIO
TIPS ON GLAZE CHEMISTRY
PROS AND CONS OF EACH
THE MICHIGAN POTTER'S ASSOCIATION
THE AMERICAN CRAFTS COUNCIL
MY TIME AT PEWABIC
PEWABIC FOUNDING AND HISTORY