A humble potter’s wheel and a ball of clay form the building blocks of Pearl Peters’ clayware. This Colorado artist produces an amazing array of stoneware, porcelain and Raku clay products. These include a practical Stoneware Utensil Holder, a fanciful Waterfall Flower Stoneware Bowl, and an inspirational Porcelain Sun Torn Roses Free Form Wall Sculpture. All of these pieces reflect her skill with the wheel, her passion for shape and color, and her zest for experimentation.
Pearl’s interest in pottery began as a small child, when she observed her mother and grandmother working with ceramics. A kiln was always within arm’s reach. As a Brownie leader, she asked her girls to paint some ceramic ornaments she had slip cast, which led to a discussion with one of the girls’ mothers, who happened to be a potter. After Pearl visited this woman and watched her throw a pot, she was fascinated with the freedom of this new art form. She was invited to sit down and center the clay on a pottery wheel, although she was warned not to expect too much of herself on her first attempt. To both her surprise and her host’s, Pearl took to the clay right away, creating her first bowl. Three weeks later, after calling every pottery shop in the city, Pearl was the proud owner of an old kick wheel. “I had to borrow the money from my grandpa to buy it,” she recollects, “and his truck to get it home.”
Pearl describes pottery as an escape for her. “I turn up the music, close my eyes, and start.” Most of her work grows out of her passion and imagination, rather than out of a need to sell or gift the pieces. “I make them for me and my heart,” says Pearl. She points to her Urban Torn work as an expression of her feelings. Passion for her art notwithstanding, Pearl is saving for a digital control for one of her kilns so that she can explore crystalline glaze, whose crystals she describes as beautiful. The crystals, she explains, are formed by the rise and fall of temperature, much as in nature.
Both the type of clay and how it can be shaped are foremost in Pearl’s mind as she begins designing a pot. “I choose clay I’m in the mood for–white or brown stoneware, Raku or porcelain. I get it wedged up, throw a piece, and while I’m throwing, I ask myself ‘will this need a handle or lid?’ I think about how I want to decorate it.”
Afterward, the clay needs to dry. “Some pieces need to be wrapped up to make them dry very slowly so they don’t crack.” When the pot is leather hard, Pearl trims it out on the bottom or sponges it off. Then she signs it. After a week she fires the bisque to 2008 degrees Fahrenheit for about 8 hours. Then follows the glazing process. Stoneware and porcelain pieces are fired again in the kiln at a temperature of 2300 degrees.
Several of the pieces in Pearl’s Etsy handmade goods shop, Fehu Stoneware, are Raku-fired, such as her Raku Celestial Incense Jar. Raku is a technique used to produce bowls for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Clay is fired for short periods of time at extremely high temperatures, then removed from a kiln while still red hot, at which point it is cooled in cold water, which sets the shape. Pearl enjoys the unpredictability of the results. She fires her Raku pieces outside in a small homemade kiln that holds two or three pieces at a time. When the temperature reaches 1,944 degrees after about 20 minutes, the flame is turned off, the lid is lifted and the red hot piece is placed in a pile of sawdust. It bursts into flames, then is covered tightly for about 20 more minutes. Afterward, the pot is transferred to water to cool it down.
Pearl’s shop name was inspired by the Old Norse rune called “Fehu,” which stands for fulfillment: ambition satisfied, love fulfilled, rewards received. According to Pearl, Fehu promises nourishment, from the most worldly to the sacred and divine. That nourishment fuels Pearl’s passion for pottery.
To learn more about clay artist Pearl Peters, visit these sites:
© 2008 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved. Please note that the images in this post are owned by Pearl Peters and are used with permission.