Process

A little bit about the Pot Crafting…

Hi I’m Steve Blakely, the artist behind the Gyldcraft pot crafting! My ceramic work is influenced by aesthetics and potters’ work from the turn of the century Arts & Crafts Movement. Some of the potters I have admired are Adelaide Alsop Robineau, Artus and Anna Van Briggle, Arthur Baggs, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Mary Louise McLaughlin, William Grueby, George Ohr (my personal favorite), and countless other potter’s work as well as pottery companies and schools from the same time period including Marblehead, Teco-Gates, Fulper, Pewabic, Hampshire, Rookwood, Weller, Newcomb College and Alfred University.

Each pot I make is hand made and one of a kind. Most are vases, hand thrown on the wheel and almost always altered … I can never leave well enough alone! I rarely start a pot intent on its design. I prefer to let creative juice flow after the pot is made, studying the shape inspiring intuitive design suited to the vessel.

The design implementation can be carving, incising, reshaping, removing clay like a window, or adding clay for a handle or an architectural element. I may add clay to form stylized flower shapes or use faux-bois (false wood) techniques attaching twigs as handles or branches on the surface of the piece. I also enjoy experimenting with triptych’s, borrowed from the Japanese wood block print formats, where I create three panels around a vase each panel with a different view of the same subject.

Some of my work is hand built. For example, using an antique cast iron heat register grate and a press form I create a tray. The antique grates were used in heat ducts in the floors of older homes. In this process I press the heavy cast iron grate into a slab of soft clay transferring the design of the grate into the clay. I playfully think of the process as a “brutalist art technique” due to the deep pressing of cast iron into soft clay and also by the original design of the grates. The handsome designed heat registers grates from over a hundred years ago are now “re-invented” in a new medium to be enjoyed again. I call these new pottery trays using an old design my “Bungalow Trays.” The original design, use, and history make these great grate trays, great conversation pieces! Isn’t that great?

Bungalow Tray

For the glaze firing (the second firing) I often apply two different glazes that create a flowing or drip green matte or blue-green matte glaze sometimes with a subtle crystalline or sparkle effect. I like the flowing or drip glazes as I feel it gives “life” to the pots. I also use other glaze colors, usually in a matte or satin finish. The glaze formulas are mixed from scratch and I design them to emulate matte or satin glazes used by potteries from the turn of the century “Arts & Crafts Movement.” The most famous green glaze was created by William Grueby of the Grueby Faience Company in Revere, Massachusetts in the late 1800’s. Many other potters then tried to mimic the famous “Grueby Green” as I do also, well over 100 years later! My new art vases are substantially less expensive than a Grueby piece which at auction can be very pricey.

Grueby  Faience Pottery

Most of the clay I use is a white stoneware, but at times I have used a darker chocolate clay. Earlier work was gas fired (reduction) to cone 10, although now I am using an electric kiln (oxidation) fired to cone 6 or 7. Most of my work is signed on the bottom with my initials, stamped with my Gyldcraft Logo, a “Roycroft Renaissance” mark which I am a juried member, and the year the piece was made in roman numerals.

My work is primarily decorative art, sometimes called “non-functional” pottery and pairs well with the dark oak furniture or antique embroidered linens from the Arts and Crafts / Craftsman / Mission era. The vases can be used as decorative art alone, or will hold water for fresh flowers as the clay is vitrified during firing. Bowls or trays can be used for “dry” food like candy, cookies, sliced cheese or bread, but acidic or “wet” food may not be appropriate.

Shoppe will be open February 1, 2021

See my Shoppe page for available pieces.