The Potter & the Teapot

It’s slim savings in the vacation piggy bank this year.  Quickie day trips in the “once in a while” category and as much as possible in the “free or practically free” category is to be expected.

This is not generally a problem since living in Southern New Jersey we are actually in driving distance of many excellent and affordable day trips that fill quite a bucket list at our house.  One of our favorite little jaunts is a swift seven minute drive to Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center in Millville, New Jersey – the heart of the historic glass industry in the region, and home to the world class American Museum of Glass.

Wheaton Arts also features fine art and artists working in residence in other mediums besides glass, including pottery – which was my particular interest in visiting this past weekend.  I had this little trip marked on my calendar this month because of a generous sponsorship by PNC Bank where admission to Wheatons was free for the month of July due to their “Arts Alive” program, and chock full of family friendly art and discovery events!  This past Sunday at noon, after church, was my plan – a demonstration by professional clay potter, Terry Plasket, in the crafting of a teapot on the potter’s wheel!

We arrived just as the clay hit the wheel and watched the process that begins with a clump of cinnamon colored clay from the quality clay fields of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, a bit of water, and the talented hands of an experienced potter.  Terry has been a WheatonArts Resident Artist since 1979 and is working in . . .

“. . . a line of work I am doing which is influenced by the Art Pottery made between 1910 and 1930, most notably Fulper Pottery.  The forms are simple yet quiet with a tendency to complement the style of  Stickely Furniture.” 
Terry Plasket

The teapot is formed in four parts beginning with the body of the pot.

Sometimes he will keep the ribbed look of fingers along the outside giving it the handmade appearance, and other times he would use a clay tool to smooth the outside to accommodate a better surface for a painted design.

This did not take him long to do – I expect he has formed thousands of them.  Wire cut it from the wheel and it was set on the table to dry a bit.

Next – another clump of clay would become the lid and the spout.  After measuring the size of the pot’s opening to determine the size of the lid, the wheel swirled into action and within minutes a perfect lid was formed.

This, too, was wire cut and set aside and the rest of the clay was to be formed into a spout.

A mini-lesson in how NOT to form a spout . . .

Such a wide mouth design would have tea spilling everywhere!   Thankfully, he modified the wide mouth to a discrete little spout that will pour neatly into a cup – though there would be no guarantee on “no drips.”

Apparently, the only way to guarantee no drips is to make your spout come to a sharp point.  This was not recommended as such a point is prone to chips and breakage in use.

Lastly, the handle was formed by hand, pulling the clay downward and smoothing it with thumb pressure before shaping it.

Though the clay is generally allowed to set for longer before molding the pieces together so they are not too wet, Terry gave us a quickie look at how it would eventually piece together – reminding himself to be sure to put the hole in the pot where the spout was to be attached.  Yes, he admitted, he had forgotten to do that a time or two making for an impossible teapot!

Spout placement is also important – level with the top of the pot, keeping the last 3/4 of it straight for a proper pour.  The finished product would be another three weeks in coming!

First, the clay would need to air dry for ten to fourteen days before its first firing at 1800 degrees for eight hours.  Gas or wood kilns are used and produce different effects as the artist desires in the design.  The pot will emerge a pink color and ready for the glazing process.

No two glazings  will be exactly the same since the outcome is dependent upon various conditions in the kiln, for instance – humid weather can affect the heating of the kiln and thereby, the chemical reaction within the glaze finish.  Terry’s work is very distinctive because of both the shape and glazing techniques he uses:

“The glazes are usually soft yet have depth using subtle colors in the glazes using mixtures of various metal oxides.  As in the glazes of the Art Pottery Period, I use both matte and gloss glazes depending on the feel I want each pot to have and its function.  Overlapping glazes will produce new colors and visual texture often with only slightly predictable results.  Fluid glazes applied over stiffer ones cause the dripping effect, but the patterns formed are random.  Each firing is different so the glazes never come out of the kilns the same, making each pot truly one-of-a-kind.”
Terry Plasket

However, once the finished product is brought out for inspection after the second firing at 2400 degrees, each nuance of the shape and color that was brought out through the firing process is a fascinating study in variety – and ready for display and sale at the Wheaton Galleries.

To accompany this special demonstration class this month, a breathtaking display of all things tea related and pottery were on exhibit in the museum store.  I was quite unsure as to where to look first!

Initially, some whimsical “face” teapots greeted the gallery visitor at the entrance, created by another WheatonArts potter, Phyllis Seidner – who creates many different pots with distinctive faces just for fun.

However, she also displayed a number of traditional designs that were lovely!

Terry quite filled the room with many of his works in so many different color schemes . . .

He works with a young intern who assisted him during the demonstration named Amy Peseller, who also has some stunning pieces with a style all her own.

I loved her story!  It seems that she came to Wheatons on a class trip when she was in the 4th grade and saw a pottery demonstration by Terry.  It was so captivating to her that she decided then and there to make this her career choice – a potter and an artist!  Years passed and she did, indeed, go onto college to study art and found herself, at one time, in a class taught by Terry – though she did not tell him how he first inspired her so many years ago.  Then, she found out that he was looking for an intern assistant and submitted for the position right there at Wheatons – where all her inspiration began.  Winning the spot she is currently working as WheatonArts Resident Assistant Potter, mentored by the very artist who seeded her child’s imagination with the idea of a career at the potter’s wheel.

Yay for you, Amy – following that dream and a passion for art and beautiful things!  How we need bold and courageous young people who set such worthy goals and fulfill them.  You will one day be the source of inspiration in the imagination of another young artist – just like Terry was to you!

“My time here at WheatonArts has moved my art in the direction of function.  Studying concept, form, and sculptural ideas in art school, I now find myself re-challenging my skills, and compromising my shapes to allow pots to be used . . . My goal is to master the ‘art of function’, while still remaining grounded to my own artistic hand, and personal style.”
Amy Peseller

So – back to the virtually empty piggy bank that I raided with just a bit of spending money that I might invest in this mini-vacation day since all the art we were enjoying was compliments of a generous sponsor this month.  You know, of course, I had to take SOMETHING home!

I had a number of favorite pieces – but needed to narrow the field.  Would I choose based on size or shape or color?  Hmmmmm . . .

I decided to close my eyes and then open them and zero in on what it was that attracted me first.  It was color.  Red – to be exact.

And, in particular, a little red teapot – just a little squat – with interesting flattened sides around and a handle that just invited my fingers to pinch and hold!

Terry had made that one – perfect!  I’d take home a Terry Plaskett original!

But . . .

Amy’s little blue with white highlights kept calling me back.  I loved the dainty nature of her work and when I put Terry’s next to hers . . .

Well, suddenly I just knew where I would display them!  In my red, white, and blue Americana tea setting in the dining room!

Problem was . . . that scant piggy bank.

Wasn’t I delighted to realize that I could take advantage of my 20% off Volunteer status at Wheatons with my purchase – which put the two pots right in range of reality!  And . . . to that end . . .

TaDaaaah!

Love it!

I don’t expect to brew tea in them at anytime – but they are now officially part of my summer time Americana decor I can visually enjoy while sipping tea in the morning at rest in my quiet time reading chair – nurturing my own dreams of creativity, beauty, and art – a worthy occupation of the mind and meditation of the heart during summer vacation.

Sharing The Potter & the Teapot this week with:

Sandy’s Tuesday Teatime at Rose Chintz Cottage
Kathy’s A Return to Loveliness at Delightsome Life
Terri’s Teacup Tuesday at Artful Affirmations
Ruth at Antiques & Teacups Tuesday Cuppa Tea
Kathryn’s Make It Pretty Monday at The Dedicated House 

P.S.  I’ve been collecting quite a few lovely photos of other inspiring sights at Wheaton Arts & Cultural Center, so stay tuned for more posts on this favorite artistic get-away that I have enjoyed since it opened in the 1970’s – many fond memories of creative and inspirational adventures through the years.  Visit their website HERE to learn more PLUS SHOP ONLINE – you can get your own Terry Plasket or Amy Peseller original, too!

 

Comments

  1. Hi Kathryn: What a wonderful visit! Love all those wonderful tea pots you are sharing. Thank you so much for all the great pictures. Blessings, Martha

  2. Wonderful! I love watching potters. We had a friend who was a working potter whom we did shows with, then all became Christians. Then as John was asked to speak places, I sang and brought Marty and his potting wheel along. It’s such a great visual of the Potter’s working with the clay of our lives. “Mold me and make me, after Your will, while I am waiting, yielded and still”. Your post brought that all back. And I LOVE your new teapots! Perfect choices! Thanks for linking to Tuesday Cuppa Tea!
    Ruth

  3. What fun. I am just fascinated by the art of pottery-making. We used to like to visit a summer arts and crafts festival before we moved – (might be a bit of a trek now!) My favorite thing was picking out the mug that would go home with me each year!

    Funny that you did this post about pottery – I recently posted a poem I wrote about being molded by The Potter. He knows just exactly how to shape us!

    P.S. I love the choices you made – Amy is quite the apprentice!

  4. Kathryn. That was an amazing read! I believe you drew me into the room and I enjoyed it.

  5. Hello Miss Kathy,
    What an amazing art form! I have made ceramics but this is totally different; simply fascinating! I like both teapots but I think I rather favour the blue one probably because of its shape. Thank you for taking me along and sharing with us at Tea Time. Have a beautiful day.

    Blessings,
    Sandi

  6. Hello Kathryn
    It’s amazing how things are created from a lump of clay. There are some wild teapots being made!
    Judith

  7. Hello Kathryn,
    I enjoy these types of day trips very much too. It looks like you had a fabulous day around these creative people and their wares. Wow! So many wonderful creations! I love the two pots you brought home, they do indeed fit into your patriotic setting. How fun! I would have had a really hard time choosing something.
    Hugs,
    Terri

  8. Wow What a fascinating post. Great pictures. Thank you!

  9. I have truly enjoyed this post and all the pictures are beautiful! How very interesting to see pottery in action. Hugs and blessings, Cindy

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