Wilburton Pottery

Wilburton Pottery

Wilburton Pottery

It’s difficult to see how 14th century Chinese history and the 21st century design of printed circuit boards relate to a successful business of creating hand-carved garden tiles. Difficult, however, is not impossible.

For Bob Jewett, the potter and painter half of Wilburton Pottery of Bellevue, WA, it’s all part of a rich life history, one that started out with two masters degrees and the pursuit of a PhD.

“Bob stayed in college until he was 35,” says Iris Jewett, the other half of the marriage and the business (she’s the glazer). “He was getting his PhD when he was advised there was no hope in getting a teaching position.

“This was in the 1970s and there was little interest in Chinese history, especially the Ming dynasty.”

So Bob did a 360 and started designing those printed circuit boards, originally working for large corporations in Los Angeles until moving to Seattle where the couple started their own business there. And while business was successful, something was missing, and Iris suspected what it could be.

“I suggested to Bob that he needed an artistic outlet, and he started taking ceramic classes at Bellevue Community College.” Iris remembers. “An inability to throw pots led him to hand build garden pots.”

So build garden pots, Bob did. Because the couple is avid about gardening (“fanatical, actually,” Iris says), Bob developed a method to make pottery that could be left  outside all year round, something that was not common at the time. He also focused on carving intricate designs in the pottery. In 1993, when the couple participated in the Bellevue Arts Fair with their wares, Wilburton Pottery officially launched.

Mary Briggs

Mary Briggs

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It is of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Pottering in the Garden — Hand-carved Tiles by Wilburton Pottery

garden tiles nature theme wilburton pottery

A compendium of 4-inch, nature-inspires, hand-carved art garden tiles by Wilburton Pottery

It’s difficult to see how 14th century Chinese history and the 21st century design of printed circuit boards relate to a successful business of creating hand-carved garden tiles. Difficult, however,  is not impossible.

frog dragonfly grapes garden wilburton pottery

A frog and dragonfly in the garden — hand-carved pottery tile by Wilburton Pottery

For Bob Jewett, the potter and painter half of Wilburton Pottery of Bellevue, WA, it’s all part of a rich life history, one that started out with two masters degrees and the pursuit of a PhD.

“Bob stayed in college until he was 35,” says Iris Jewett, the other half of the marriage and the business (she’s the glazer). “He was getting his PhD when he was advised there was no hope in getting a teaching position.

“This was in the 1970s  and there was little interest in Chinese history, especially the Ming dynasty.”

From the Ming Dynasty to Circuit Boards

So Bob did a 360 and started designing those printed circuit boards, originally working for large corporations in Los Angeles until moving to Seattle where the couple started their own business there. And while business was successful, something was missing, and Iris suspected what it could be.

“I suggested to Bob that he needed an artistic outlet, and he started taking ceramic classes at Bellevue Community College.” Iris remembers. “An inability to throw pots led him to hand build garden pots.”

So build garden pots, Bob did. Because the couple is avid about gardening (“fanatical, actually,” Iris says), Bob developed a method to make pottery that could be left  outside all year round, something that was not common at the time. He also focused on carving intricate designs in the pottery. In 1993, when the couple participated in the Bellevue Arts Fair with their wares, Wilburton Pottery officially launched.

And from Circuit Boards to Pottery Garden Tiles

Since that time, they have added hand-carved, hand-painted garden tiles which enthusiastic buyers use as art by the front door, in the garden, around the fireplace, in the kitchen, bathroom and all over the house. Designing circuit boards is long gone, replaced by a garden-themed pottery business that sells via Wilburton Pottery’s website, galleries, gift shops, and art fairs throughout the country.

wilburton pottery outdoor garden flowers

Pottery in the outdoor garden, by Wilburton Pottery

“We used to do 22 art fairs and garden shows a year,” Iris says. “I think we have stayed in over 600 hotel rooms during that time, and we became very efficient packers. Once we did the Salem Art Fair and realized we forgot our suitcases — that never happened again!

“Through the fairs, our tiles were sent by customers to family and friends around the world — a Japanese monastery, Finland, Australia, England, Holland, China, and more.”

So China does come back into the picture.

Serious about Pottery,  and Gardens

But the art festivals, with the incredible amount of time and traveling involved, slowed down to two per year as the couple focuses more on website sales and custom design orders. One steady venue for sales is the garden shop at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens, 53 acres of flora cultivation which receives more than 300,000 visitors per year. Bob and Iris started the organization in 1984, when they put up posters all over town inviting residents to attend the first meeting.

rabbit garden pottery ceramic tile wilburton

Rabbit in the Garden, one of Wilburton Pottery’s most popular designs

“Yes, just the two of us,” Iris confirms when asked if she and Bob were the original impetus for the Gardens’ existence. They now volunteer for various events, focusing especially on the Gingerbread display for the Garden D’Lights in December, and helping children make graham cracker houses.

“Mostly we quietly walk through the gardens and are overjoyed to see so many people there,” Iris says. “The Garden is located just a few blocks from our home.”

More Than 500 Garden Pottery Tile Designs

Back at that home, Bob and Iris work out of their various studios, Iris in “a lovely room with a skylight,” and Bob in “an unfinished garage that he was always going to improve, but never did.” Bob creates his intricate hand carvings — more than 500 designs and growing — in his den or outside among the plants, and images range from bunnies a la Beatrix Potter to blacksmiths working in a forge surrounded by vines. There are frogs, mermaids, beech wood forests, angels, grapevines, the Buddha and crickets — something for everyone, and every environment. Like plants in the garden, the ideas never stop growing.

“We purposefully make the tiles look old with cracks and an uneven border,” Iris says. “To quote our customers, they think the tiles add a peacefulness to life, and they enjoy the antique look.”

It’s a unique combination of something old — like the Ming Dynasty of China — and something new — 21st century technology — perfectly blended into an element timeless to human existence: the garden.

“We let the pottery speak for us,” Iris says.

 

Wenaha Gallery

Bob and Iris Jewett of Wilburton Pottery are the featured Pacific Northwest artists at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 28 through Saturday, September 23, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic Terra Cotta — Functional Beauty by Mary Briggs

ceramic terra cotta pottery platter with cow mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta platter, with painting of cow by Mary Briggs

Mary Briggs is a woman who rarely sits. So much is her desire to keep active that she changed specialties in college because her first choice, graphic design, was too sedentary.

“I was the kid whose foot was always wiggling,” Briggs says, explaining why she became a studio potter after earning her Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the University of Iowa.

ceramic terra cotta pottery vase mary briggs

Ceramic terra cotta pottery vase with romantic landscape painting by Mary Briggs

“The wedging of clay or manipulation of clay is a physical activity that might be likened to a baker or chef — moving around the kitchen and using your arms and creating a physical end product.”

Ceramic Terra Cotta Inspired by Folk Pottery

For the Eugene artist, the completed physical end product is terra cotta functional ceramicware — platters, plates, vases, candlestick holders, mugs — inspired by historical folk pottery as well as the works of 19th century Old Masters painters. Briggs began incorporating imagery on her work 15 years ago when she observed how brush marks and drip lines formed impressions of landscapes. It was a short, but significant, step to drawing period images on her work, adding to its sensation of timelessness and meaning.

She focused upon the 19th century landscape for its calming, romantic element, likening the feeling to that inspired by a country drive.

“I find rural life and nature to be calming and beautiful. By using that imagery on my work, I hope it brings a sense of calmness to those who encounter it.

“I also hope to create an awareness of how important nature is to all of us personally and globally.”

Nature: In the Garden and the Ceramic Studio

Nature, for Briggs, is an element that factors throughout her day and week, whether she is in the studio, creating a body of work that, from start to finish, can take up to three months,  or out in the gardens of area residents, who commission her skills in this area.

earthenware ceramic terra cotta painted mug mary briggs

An earthenware, terra cotta ceramic mug by Mary Briggs

“I work as a gardener for a week and then in my studio for a week,” Briggs explains, adding that she began gardening as a side job in graduate school, finding it a natural counterbalance to the intensity of studio work.

“It’s interesting to note that most potters are fabulous cooks and gardeners,” she observes. “It was not my experience that graphic designers were much interested in either of those. It was that sense of community that also attracted me to the field of ceramics.”

Briggs’s studio is based in the garage of her home, and has been renovated with added windows and insulation, additional electricity for her kiln, and ventilation. Because there is limited space for storing inventory, Briggs keeps her work moving, and a major means of doing this is through the Schaller Gallery of St. Joseph, Michigan, which represents some of the finest functional ceramic artists of the world. Most recently, gallery owner Anthony Schaller told Briggs to add Rebecca Sive — who may or may not be the Huffington Post writer who penned Every Day Is Election Day; Briggs isn’t sure  —  to her list of collectors.

ceramic painted landscape pottery platter mary briggs

A ceramic, painted landscape platter with gilded edging, by Mary Briggs

Dedicated to the Ceramic Art

Briggs has shown her pottery in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and universities in Minnesota, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Montana , Wyoming, Indiana, and Oregon. Her work is in the permanent collection at Bermuda National Gallery, Contemporary Ceramics, and she has been published in Ceramics: Art & Perception, an international journal dedicated to ceramic art. Her art  also appears in the book, 500 Cups: Ceramic Explorations of Utility & Grace by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott.

Ironically, though Briggs chose to leave graphic design for ceramics, its influence does not go unnoticed in her art.

“I think all my art classes in college have helped with my decoration process,” Briggs says. “From color theory to composition to art history: all those things are in my tool box.” Each piece is individually decorated, in accordance with its shape, size, and form, with the result that every ceramic Briggs creates is uniquely, singularly distinct.

Choosing Terra Cotta

ceramic earthenware terra cotta pottery vases mary briggs

Ceramic earthenware vases by pottery artist Mary Briggs

The very choice of terra cotta — known as poor man’s clay because it is not as dense and white as porcelain — is deliberate, with Briggs being drawn to its rustic quality and unexpected, but welcome, irregularities. It’s of the earth, after all, just like gardening.

In the end, Briggs says, that’s what it’s all about: the earth, and beautiful places, and exquisitely shaped ceramics that capture that beauty and encourage those who see the work.

“My work is not about politics or social commentary.

“It is simply meant to serve as a window into a peaceful place.”

Wenaha Gallery

Mary Briggs is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, August 14 through Saturday, September 9, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

The Dentist Artist — Sculpture by Shelia Coe

sculpture woman seated skirt pink shelia coe

Sculpted woman with fabric skirt by former dentist, now artist, Shelia Coe

Childhood Christmas gifts create lasting memories. Often, they even shape our future. And so it was for ceramic artist Shelia Coe . . . sort of. It just took a little longer than her mother, whose biggest desire was that her daughter grow up to be an artist, envisioned.

“My mother was a frustrated artist,” Coe remembers. “With six children, she didn’t have much time to pursue art, but she tried to channel me into becoming an artist. To that end, she bought me art supplies for every holiday, and dragged me along on her trips to paint barns and still lifes.”

cow sculpture by dentist artist shelia coe walla walla

Cow sculpture by dentist artist Shelia Coe of Walla Walla

Like so many things we plan for and try to direct, however, the future turned out differently, and instead of using her hands to wield a paintbrush or palette knife, Coe picked up the tools of dentistry, practicing the profession for more than 34 years.

“My mother was disappointed when I was accepted into dental school,” Coe says. “She said something like, ‘If you have to do something in the health field, couldn’t you at least be a medical illustrator?’

“I’ve gotta laugh at how it’s all turned out, and if she’s looking down, she’s probably happy to be getting her wish for me.”

Looking for a Creative Outlet

The latter part of those 34 years in dentistry, Coe spent in Walla Walla at a private practice, finishing out the final six of her career at Yellowhawk Clinic in Pendleton for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla. Upon retirement, she found her hands and mind seeking a creative outlet, and when the women in her spinning class at the YMCA suggested taking a sculpture class by Walla Walla artist Penny Michel, Coe decided to give it a try.

fish sculpture shelia coe dentist artist walla walla

Fish sculpture by Shelia Coe of Walla Walla. Coe worked as a dentist for 34 years before turning fulltime to art

“After the first class, I was hooked.

“For a week I could hardly sleep, thinking of all the things I wanted to try to make.”

Fortunately, her sleep patterns have returned to normal, with the added bonus of Coe continuing to explore a variety of subject matter, from people to animals to design work. The possibilities are endless, because Nature herself never runs out of providing ideas.

“I love nature, and as a child was always drawing horses and animals of all kinds along with plants — for awhile I wanted to be a botanist.

“So all kinds of things in nature inspire me, and oftentimes it can be a drawing or a photo, or the animal itself.

“I have made llamas, deer, horses, cows, fish, and sheep on a hill. I recently finished a horse that is 20 inches tall and 15 inches wide — the largest piece I have ever made.”

An Unusual Studio

Coe’s studio is split between Michel’s studio for classes and firing, and Coe’s home utility room and kitchen. And while the kitchen and laundry rooms are not generally associated with the wild, exuberant, abounding world of nature, they are good places to capture it. Kitchen implements, basic tools, and simple elements of nature — like pine cones, for texturizing — create mesmerizing effects when wielded in the right hands, and what hands are more accustomed to fine, precision work than that of a dentist?

horse sculpture shelia coe wenaha gallery

Horse sculpture by Shelia Coe, guest artist at Wenaha Gallery

“Sculpture, like dentistry, demands the use of the hands — but with loads more creative freedom (of course),” Coe observes.

Creative freedom or not, clay has its own rules, and part of learning to work with it is respecting its properties, taking the scientific approach to art, so to speak. Observation, theorization, deduction, experimentation, and the willingness to learn from failure all come into play, and Coe willingly gives time to each.

“My favorite part of creating sculpture is figuring out the structural and engineering aspect of each piece,” Coe explains. “It is not always easy to get the clay to do what you want it to.

“Glazing is also a challenge because they never look the same once they are fired. In fact, even the same glaze will look different depending upon its thickness and its position in the kiln. Glazes are very finicky.”

World Traveler

A member of ArtWalla, Coe takes advantage of classes, both in the area and out, to finesse and further her skills. An avid traveler, she also maintains a collection of her own, picking up pieces by local artists from areas such as Palau, Yap, Tibet and Tunisia as well as more mainstream destinations.

In the end, everything works together when it comes to art, life, and dreams. It may have taken awhile to get to the art part, but all the time Coe spent as a dentist shaped her hands to a fine and acute sensitivity, and sensibility.

Her mother would be pleased.

Wenaha Gallery

Shelia Coe is the Featured Pacific Northwest Artist at Wenaha Gallery from Monday, June 19 through Saturday, July 15, 2017. 

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

 

 

Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada

Falling Leaves and Radiochemistry — The Ceramic Art of Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada leaves

A series of ceramic leaf dishes by Jane Holly Estrada sits atop a granite Lazy Susan by Terry Hoon

In her day job, Jane Holly Estrada is a radiochemist, dealing with a concept — radiation — that many people rightly or wrongly associate with loooooooooong periods of time.

But when the white lab jacket is hung up at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the day, Estrada focuses strongly on the ephemeral, the temporal —  fleeting moments of transitory time in which she captures a moment in nature and transforms it into a state of permanence.

Gold bordered blue ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Gold highlights and a dotted border on an individual leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Working in the field of ceramics, the Richland, WA, artist creates jewelry and shaped dishes inspired by the leaves of trees, but not just any leaves. Estrada’s window of time is a short one in autumn, after the leaves have fallen off the tree naturally but while they are still crisp enough to leave a literal impression upon clay.

“Each dish I make is created by pressing a real leaf into the clay and shaping it into a unique small dish, which is then painted with watercolor style underglazes,” Estrada explains.

“The dish is then glazed all over, fired, and painted with real gold and white gold accents.

“The final product is a mirror image of the now long-gone leaf, but embellished with swirls of color, texture, and metallic gilding.”

Set in a few clear sentences, the process seems straightforward and direct, but as with any area dealing with chemical and physical alteration — whether the matter has to do with art, science or a fusion of the two — things just aren’t that simple. Stuff happens.

ceramic and gold bead necklaces in blue and green by Jane Holly Estrada

Ceramic and gold bead necklaces in rich variants of blue and green, by Jane Holly Estrada

The biggest challenge of working with clay, Estrada says, is that no matter how careful the artist is during the process, there’s always a chance for the unexpected to occur. Work can crack if it dries too quickly, or even if it is gently bumped at the wrong time.

“Each trip through the kiln is a chance for cracking, warping, and even exploding,” Estrada adds. “Glazes can run, crawl, craze and drip — all things that can either ruin your work or make it amazing.

“Most of my pieces go through the kiln three to four times, each time a gamble.”

The upshot of it all is that even the most scientific of approaches can’t guarantee the outcome, but like life itself, that’s part of the challenge.

“The benefit is that if your work survives its creation process, it becomes a durable and lasting piece of art in a way that a more ephemeral piece of paper or canvas cannot compare,” Estrada observes.

A collection of painted rocks and mandala stones by jane holly estrada

A collection of painted rocks and Mandala Stones by Jane Holly Estrada

“Clay allows the artist to create a functional object that is equally an object of beauty.”

Estrada’s leaf-based clay dishes and jewelry imbue familiar colors of  forest, sky, and water– azure, turquoise, teal, beryl, emerald, verdigris, moss, jade — with gold and silver sparkle, resulting in an alchemy of Mother Nature with human skill and ingenuity. The finished pieces are delicate yet strong, possessing a tactility that encourages viewers to pick up, touch, hold, turn, brush, and feel.

Because each piece is fashioned from one single, unique leaf, Estrada’s artworks are literally one of a kind at the same time that they work well together as a set or a collection — in the same manner that leaves gather while retaining their individual attributes, as well as that of their creator.

“I am not a production potter, and I (like most artists) am not  looking to compete with the factories and big box stores,” Estrada says.

“My goal is to create small pieces of beautiful art that people can have in their daily lives. My jewelry is meant to be worn and the dishes to be used.”

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf (leaves) dish by Jane Holly Estrada

Close up detail of glaze and gold luster of a ceramic leaf dish by Jane Holly Estrada

In addition to her ceramic leaf works, Estrada also paints mandala stones — smooth surfaced rocks embellished by a series of dots and color in a circular pattern. Estrada teaches the technique at Confluent, a non-profit organization in Richland that provides space and resources for community members to explore art, technology, and culture through community-based workshops and classes. She also participates in the center’s various art shows, and in the recent “Dreamers” exhibition won Best Overall piece in a public vote for her wood-substrate painting executed in the spirit of vintage post cards.

Incorporating art and science, temporal aspects and immutable, nature and fabrication, Estrada’s works are inspired by her love of water with its shifting shape, color, and ability to reflect light. And while she does not aim to make a statement, she believes that the final product is the statement itself, standing out for the time and detail that go into it.

“I’ve always loved science and trying to understand how the natural world works,” Estrada says.

“I believe that this shows through in my art.”

Wenaha GalleryJane Holly Estrada is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Monday, January 30, through Saturday, February 25.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit the gallery today!