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March 2021


  Q & A & CLAY  with Cindy Gibson

Q: What was the main experience you had that made you realize a life in clay was the thing for you?
C:  I was in my third year at University of Manitoba’s School of Art when the clay addiction snuck up on me.  I had already done the coursework for a major in painting, but realized I was spending most of my time in the ceramics department.  When I decided to do my thesis year in ceramics instead - that was it!  By then I was selling my work and was a studio technician/teaching assistant at U of M, both of which helped pay for my final year.  The Stoneware Gallery potters co-op [] in Winnipeg had been set up a few years earlier, and I could see that making living in ceramics was possible. 
 Q:   True confessions: how many pottery coffee mugs do you own and do you hide your favorites at the back of the cubby so nobody else uses them.
C:  I haven’t counted because the cupboard(s) are over full…. Probably about 100 if you count tea cups too.  I have a lot of favourites, particularly ones made by far flung friends, trades made at markets or made by me in another time and place. Pots that have their own story to tell are special to use and there is always one to suit every mood.  Doesn’t stop me from buying more though!  I’m currently enjoying an exquisite soda fired teacup by Edmonton via Winnipeg artist Terry Hildebrand.  As for the family: Brent uses the same mug every day, made by me in 1990. Jared likes a large one by Linda Vigliotti and Cathi Jefferson’s soda fired square mugs.  Galen prefers the more robust stoneware from my past, and will drink from any mug as long as it is handmade and has a sufficient volume.  Both sons say pottery mugs remind them of home.
Underglazes on top of raw white glaze

Q:   What has been the highlight of your ceramic career so far?
C:  Being juried in to the Surrey Guild of Craftsmen as an exhibiting member, which was very competitive [].  I was unknown in the UK and the guild provided the means for me to become established in the professional crafts community.  The guild runs it’s own gallery shop in Milford, on the Portsmouth Road south of London.  It facilitates events such as workshops and exhibitions at a wide variety of venues, all around the country.  The Surrey Guild was really a blessing as the shop provided day-to-day sales for my production work, and the exhibitions of individual one-off work stimulated the sculptural side of my practice.  It also connected me with other galleries, teaching opportunities, and curatorial experience, not to mention some great friendships.  It was an ideal setup and I miss it still!
Q: In your opinion, what is the best way to market pottery?
C:  Every situation is different so it helps to adapt to the circumstances and opportunities that exist at any particular time and place.   Any way that works is the best way.
Selling On-line:  There are so many easy ways to sell online and it seems that more options are popping up all the time.  I’ve had an e-commerce website for 6 years.   I am not at all a techie but I found the tools on the Wix platform relatively intuitive and user friendly, and I’m able to build, customize and manage the site myself.  Being “found” was the initial hurdle.  Getting started it helped to have links on community and group websites.  Getting on top of SEO, Google My Business and cross social media promotions have made the biggest difference in the amount of traffic to the site.  I am also lucky that I have contacts in other cities/countries that help spread the word. The website works for me 24/7 as a shop, but also as an online portfolio and a mailing list collection point.  2020 was a great year to be an online seller.  Sales were more than healthy and two thirds of fourth quarter sales were to new customers, which was also great.  However, keeping the site up to date, photographing and setting up each item with description, dimensions and weight, packing and shipping and communicating with buyers all takes a lot of time away from making.  I’m glad I was able to shift more sales online, but I do miss making connections with customers via direct marketing. 
Direct sales:  My work sells the best when I am there, which usually means craft fairs and markets such as the Pacific Rim Potters shows.  While I don’t enjoy all the packing, carrying, setting up and time away from the studio, it is usually well worth it.  I like to engage with customers, and the insights gained from exploring a viewpoint other than one’s own can be quite valuable. 
Gallery and consignment sales:  I have never begrudged the commission paid to shops or galleries who have sold for me.  They work hard.  And they have the ability to reach a different audience than I can on my own.   Ideally a co-op such as the “Surrey Guild Gallery'' or the “Stoneware Gallery” would be my first choice as an all round “best way to market pottery”.  I find that a steady reliable sales venue helps keep my workflow on track.  Currently the majority of my sales are direct or on-line.  The only consignment selling I do at the moment is via the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria gift shop.

All pots are either coloured slip decorated under a reactive celadon, or underglaze painted on top of a raw white or yellow glaze. Exceptions are the snowdrop pieces  (bottom centre) which are finished with a vitreous slip, and a couple of seed-heads that are glazed with a turquoise glaze.

Q:   What is your favorite method of surface decorating? 
C:  Isn’t the ceramic surface an awesome playground?  I like it all.  Back when I fired with gas, my focus was more on glazes with only minimal brushwork.   Exploring more techniques for the surface began when I switched to electric firing, 17 years into my ceramic career.  I wasn’t interested in imitating gas effects; I wanted to explore what the benefits of firing electric might be.   I like to paint, and I enjoy pattern and imagery so slips and underglazes are my go to media.  If I’m painting something detailed I prefer to work on raw clay  (leatherhard or green).  I like slips for larger areas of colour and sgraffito work, and commercial underglazes for more detailed work, often on the same piece.  Carving through slip is yummy and satisfying.  Working on un-bisqued clay means I can carve around colour to define designs.  I also use underglazes and stains to paint on top of raw glaze.  This feels like painting on thick absorbent watercolour paper.  What I like about this is that the colours show up well - undiluted for intense tones and also diluted for a watercolour effect.   Less underglaze is needed, the supporting glaze can be opaque if desired and colours don’t run or drag if the right glaze is used as the base.

Underglazes on green clay and then covered with a clear glaze

Q:   What is the most challenging form you make ? 
C:   Do I make any challenging forms?  I don’t know.  If I want to make something that looks like it will be overly complicated, I break it down into components, and keep a keen eye on controlling drying.  For example the large bird feeders are made in 4 thrown pieces and assembled.  But none of the components are difficult.  It is the same with teapots, double walled vessels and some of my lights.  It is the same for really large pots too – I throw in sections then throw them some more once assembled.  The challenge I find the most enjoyable is designing surfaces that will best suit the forms that I want to make (and vice versa).  Other challenges can be less fun.  I have sleepless nights over commissions on the rare occasion when the brief is difficult to pin down.  I’d often rather say “no” to commissions because they always take longer than I expect!  But I do take them on if it feels like it could lead to something new or stretch me in some way.
Q:  Can you tell us a bit about your experiences working in the German ceramic house? 
C:  I worked in a production workshop that had one master potter (David Anthony) a studio manager and 6 or 7 under-potters (including me) who made pots to the master’s specifications.  The pottery was in a 500 year-old former dairy barn.  It was a long building with a shop in front, the workshop with its cobblestone floor in the centre and an attached kiln room at the back.  There was a damp root cellar basement where the clay was aged and another out building for clay making and glaze mixing that I became well acquainted with, as those were some of my jobs. The studio had large worktables, wheels, a pugmill, an extruder, a sink and large windows on the courtyard side.  About 80% of the work was thrown and 20% slab built.  We used slump/hump molds and sprigs; no slip-casting.  The gas kiln was a hard brick car kiln that never completely cooled down.  The shelves were left in place as the kiln was loaded and unloaded from the sides. My first assignment was to make and handle 100 mugs the first day, to be glazed and loaded into the kiln the next day.  I struggled!  The work schedule rarely varied.  As pots fill ware boards, they’re put up on the rafters near the ceiling where they dry enough to carve or add handles the afternoon of the same day. Raw glazing happened the next day, after which the master potter did brushwork decoration as required.  David learned his signature flowing brushwork on raw glaze as an apprentice to Alan Caiger-Smith at Aldermaston Pottery in England. Once glazed and put in the warm kiln room, the previous firing was unloaded (another one of my jobs).  The ware was HOT.  Then the freshly glazed pots were loaded into the kiln and it was lit, to candle overnight.  The cone 10 reduction firing took all of the next day while we made the next batch of pots.  It would be unloaded the following day and the cycle would start again.  The pottery supplied shops and restaurants as well as their own in-house storefront. There were also huge pottery-only markets as well as the very lucrative month-long outdoor Heidelberg Christmas market.  I only sold the small output of my own work through the pottery shop, and was an assistant at markets, selling the studio branded pots.  I had never seen so many pots produced in such a short time.  My BFA taught me about aesthetics and design, chemistry and theory.  But I didn’t learn very much about running a business.  I worked at Töpferei im Hof for 4 - 5 years and learned so much stuff that I didn’t know I didn’t know!  The experience also had a profound effect on my work.  David and his partner Elsa Kettenmann have since moved the pottery, now called TonArt, from Handschuhsheim (across the river Neckar from Heidelberg) to the countryside village of Mönchzell in the Odenwald.
Cindy Gibson


Looking for a great way to showcase your pottery while supporting MISSA? MISSA has opened an online shop and salon for the purpose of keeping artists connected and providing a way to show and sell their work while supporting the school. In order to take part in this fabulous opportunity, first go to the MISSA website and join as a Friend of MISSA . The fee for this is only twenty five dollars and provides many benefits as well as the ability to participate in the shop. Then go to this page to submit your work and fill in the fields where you give information on your pieces and upload photos. Artists are responsible for the delivery of their piece once it sells either by shipping or pick up /delivery. The MISSA Shop supports artists by offering a generous commission, and a portion of sales also goes to supporting MISSA. Art work offered in the SALON has been generously donated by the artist and all of the proceeds from those sales go to supporting MISSA throughout the year. Anyone who needs some help or more info with this can call or email me. And yes, some may be thinking oh jeez more shameless self-promotion from that potter named Elmes who has stuff in the shop - BUT - I want your pottery to be promoted as well!

T n T  thanks to Nancy Fraser
Reclaiming clay
As you trim your pots and/or collapse pieces you are less than satisfied with, save the dried clay in a bag. When you have sufficient clay to reclaim wet some towels, spread one in the bottom of a dishpan and place clay bits on top. Cover with wet towels and repeat until all your scraps of clay are sandwiched between layers of wet towel. Cover with plastic. The next day check to see if the clay is re-hydrated enough to wedge and if not sprinkle a bit more water on the towels, cover and check again the next day. This is the easiest way I have found to reclaim clay with the least mess.

Throwing small items
 When throwing very small items it is very difficult to centre the clay on the wheel. It's time to learn to throw off the hump. Take a large piece of clay and place it on the wheel. Don't worry, you don't have to centre the whole amount...only the top portion. It might seem an impossible task to throw multiple items that are similar but the trick is to start by isolating a similar amount of clay at the top of the hump before starting each piece. After throwing 6 or 7 pieces I found they started to be similar enough to be seen as a set. Spend some time compressing bottoms to reduce the incidence of S cracks.
Making test tiles.
Throw a large form with no bottom, use a tool to create texture on the upper portion of the form so you can see if your glazes will break. When leather hard cut vertically into 1 inch wide pieces.
I keep a stock of bisqued test tiles for each type of clay since glazes don't always react the same on different clay bodies.
Fixing Problems
It's easier and less frustrating to reclaim pieces that have a problem before bisquing or use for testing glazes after bisquing. Most fixes don't work well and take a long time and attention before the realization you are never going to be happy with the fix.
Purists may view the use of tools for centering as cheating but anything that helps save someone's wrists from requiring surgery or produces better handmade pots is good.
  1.  Sometimes it is easier to centre if you close your eyes and focus on down and up pressure on the clay rather than pushing in.
  2.  With large amounts of clay it puts less strain on your wrists by pulling in from the back of the clay once it is securely attached to the wheel. You can also use the side of your arm instead of your hand.
  3.  Built a centring arm by using a piece of pipe of PVC and attaching a flat piece of rigid material to it. Push the centering arm against the clay and gradually raise it up over the clay. Do it a few times and your clay will be centred no matter how large  the ball of clay is. Remember to wet the flat piece before placing it against your clay.
  4. Opening tool – If you struggle to have consistent thickness in the bottom of your pots or tend to knock your clay off centre when opening  you can easily make this opening tool using PVC.
Buy a length of 1/2 inch PVC pipe, 2 elbows and 1 tee joint. Cut the piece of PVC for the centre of your tool 3/8 inch shorter than the two pieces for the ends. Cut two equal length pieces for the top of the tool making sure the total width is such that it will be supported on the wheel head or bat when in use. Dry fit the pieces before gluing in place to make sure the two end pieces are exactly the same length.

Opening tool parts

Opening tool
If you have problems with handles sagging: Let them dry more before attaching and/or you can dry pieces upside down.

There are certain standards/guidelines for well-made pottery but beyond that it's important to remember that perfect is an opinion not a universal ideal to be achieved.

 Thanks so much Nancy, awesome tips that are so practical and easy to apply to our work!


 Dear Mrs. Claypoole,
   I am a sensible well brought up stoneware who has been seeing a rather dashing midfire glaze off and on for the past year. Although I am completely smitten, I do believe that I am now entering a phase of our relationship where I am at the other end of that saddest form of love - the unrequited!  I feel that my sincere attentiveness is simply bolstering the glaze's ego rather than proving my interest in a long term union. The glaze is so full of frit causing the bond between us to be so inconsistent, we never seem to stick together during firing. My glaze beads up, curls over on itself and generally leaves skips and gaps in its reciprocation of my affections. I was always taught to see all sides of a story and not make rash decisions that I may regret later so I have tried every piece of advice my friends have given me in order to give it another chance. I washed my bisque, bisqued at a lower temperature, made sure we were both completely dried after glazing before we went into the kiln. I have even asked our chaperone to start wearing disposable vinyl gloves when we hold hands prepping for our glaze dates. Cruelly, the more I try to explain that we need to give each other space and take a relationship sabbatical, the more my handsome glaze resists, and comes crawling back to me. I am starting to feel like my love life has become the lyrics to a country western song and I am wondering if I should just make a clean break and find another glaze that will satisfy my need for a stable, committed relationship.  
                 Crawling the Walls in Westshore

Dear Crawling the Walls in Westshore,
  Ahh the misery of unrequited love; you have my complete and utter sympathy. Well brought up stonewares often hit this snag in their quest for commitment. Having a glaze come crawling back to you when you are being so careful with considering what is best for each partner is the most common flaw in the clay glaze relationship. Though love is a two way street and I am loath to blame one partner over the other, I do believe that the glaze may be the culprit, especially if it is layered.   Layering two glazes can cause crawling due to the first layer having a poor dry bond or being rewetted and loosening it from the bisque. I know that there is always a temptation to avoid dealing with problems. Sadly, instead of facing the fact that you may have to break up, by extending the time you are together during glaze dipping dates, you are asking for trouble. Taking things too fast or too slow with drying times can be critical to your happiness. Taking too long to dry during the stages where the adhesion mechanism may need more time can cause cracking, bubbling and flaking before going into the kiln. You also mentioned that your intended was full of frit. Although there is no need to use what amounts to euphemistic profanity, try not to be unkind toward your unrequited as partners who are full of frit are notorious for this crawling behaviour.  It could be that your glaze, although it may be attracted to you, just does not have the right mechanism for physical contact. A high percentage of such fine particles material such as frit in a glaze will often cause it to not ‘wet in’ and the glaze will dry very quickly after dipping causing a very poor dry bond and it will be quite powdery on drying. I am sure that every time you try to create an environment for commitment, the glaze lays it on really thick about how you are so demanding and he is a free spirit who just wants to be in a casual relationship. Best to test and adjust the specific gravity of the glaze and maintain that measurement to ensure the overly thick mix does not result in crawling. It could be that your glaze, although handsome, is just a big drip, and those thicker areas need a bit of light paper towel sanding to even it out.  If you do decide to end it keep in mind that in future, if you choose to date a glaze that is significantly more than 20 percent clay ( ball clay, kaolin, Alberta slip etc) you may encounter the same problem unless you give it a bit of a tune up by calcining some of the clay before mixing your glaze in order to reduce its shrinkage that may be causing the crawling. However, if you do think that the time you have invested seeking commitment from this particular glaze is worth another try at adjusting its behaviour, try adding some CMC ( carboxymethylcellulose ) gum. This will help improve the dry bonding of the glaze to the bisque making it less powdery and easier to handle. Test your glaze with one percent of added gum. Do not expect it to go along with your plan all at once, first mix the gum with water using a high speed mixer and then add it to the wet batch. I am sure this will lead to the results you seek, however once you take control, there may be a bit of a stink put up by your glaze from the addition of gum. The gum being an organic material will grow bacteria ( friendly of course) once it sits for a bit. Cure this oppositional petulance by either only making small batches at a time and using it quickly or by adding a biocide (such as the tablets that hikers use in the back country to ensure their water is purified) to your glaze to keep it from going smelly and slimy. Test this cure - it should do the trick to stop your partner from becoming a total stinker, and in time, instead of bacteria, a more stable relationship may grow.

 Dear reader, no need to be shy, all inquiries will be forwarded to Mrs. Claypoole by the editor and kept in the strictest of confidence.
                                              POT of the MONTH


            The Green Man depicted on a German salt-glazed beer stein. 
If you have an interest in beer steins besides their usual contents, check out this informative website

After a tough winter, thankfully spring is upon us and it will soon be summer. The Green Man is symbolic of humans depending on nature for sustenance. He symbolizes the cycle of regrowth and rebirth that occurs at this time of year. Often seen as an ancient forest guardian popular with the Celts, he is also found in many other cultures around the world. As part of Christian efforts to convert pagans in Europe, the Green Man was embraced by the church as he could be seen as a symbol of resurrection and many churches have a depiction of this mythological creature as part of their architectural facade. The Green Man can be distinguished from other human-like mythological forest dwellers by the elaborate foliage that springs from his head, eyes, nostrils and mouth.  His image is often seen on drinking vessels such as this beautiful salt glazed multicoloured beer stein. The term stein is of German origin either from "Stein Krug" meaning stone jug/mug or from the word "Steingut" meaning stone goods, stone probably referring to high fired stoneware. `German potteries were noted for their production of salt glazed ceramic ware after it was said to have accidentally developed in the Rhineland in the 13th and 14th centuries. The story goes that potters who were desperate for enough wood to fire their kilns used the old barrels and boxes that were leftover from storing salt fish. Also potters in this area were firing at a higher temperature than other places in Europe.  Gradually the firing process evolved and salt began to be directly introduced into the kiln at high temperatures creating a sodium silicate glazed surface and a vitrified ware. Salt glazing at its height was cheap and effective for the production of everything from house and drain tiles to a variety of vessels for the transportation of liquid and yes, being a prolific beer producing country it was used to fire the many mugs and steins which held all of that amber nectar of the gods. So maybe that is why the Green Man is used so often to decorate beer vessels, after all what is more reinvigorating and gives one a feeling of rebirth on a warm spring evening than a nice cold brewski served in a classic pottery stein ? And what else could make somebody feel green around the gills the next morning after some serious imbibing with their pint partying pals? But remember the standard long as it is served in a pottery vessel it cannot possibly be bad for you.
                                                                                                      - Peggy
                                              Due to Covid 19 restrictions,
the Southern Vancouver Island Potters' Guild 'in person' meetings have been cancelled and we are now using Zoom for online meetings until further notice. 


South Vancouver Island Potters Guild
Upcoming Meeting Programs 2020-2021

November 9th
December 14th
January 11th
February 8th
March 8th
April 12th
May 10th

Please send submissions for the newsletter by the third week of each month. Suggestions for articles for future newsletters are all welcome and will be gratefully received! 
Please e-mail Peggy Elmes at:

                            Stay safe and keep the Mud Faith


The Guild Library is a great resource for getting inspired to try something new-to-you, during these fall/winter months, while we are not able to meet face-to-face! 
Feel free to come by the church on Thursdays, Noon-5pm to signout items (side door) or, contact Nancy W, Librarian, to check if there are specific items not signed out by others -at
  • Print your name & the date signed-out on the library card (see inside or back of book or DVD).  
  • Place the card in the ‘Signed-Out’ box, in numerical order.
  • When returning - place the card back inside and refile the book or DVD in numerical order.

Did you know … you can search the Library’s Inventory List in FOUR different ways?
The Inventory Lists and all this information, plus the Library Team’s contact details, are available on the guild website at
          Library Team,
          Nancy W., Kris J., Marlene B.
Business card size (2” x 3 ½”):
$10 per issue
$75 for 10 issues
Quarter page ad (3 ½” x 4 ¾”)
$20 per issue
$150 for 10 issues
Sales announcements, events, classified ads:
To place an ad., please contact the
Guild Treasurer Linda Vigliotti at 250-479-5966

                                     SVIPG Executive

          President:                     Leslie Denko             250-216-8375

          Vice-President:            Pam Bradley              250-686-9220

          Secretary:                    Raven Karey              1-403-690-1614

          Treasurer:                    Linda Vigliotti              250-479-5966


          Kitchen:                        On rota - please see schedule in Guild-at-a-Glance

          Library:                         Nancy Wall                 250-479-3524
                                                Kris Jeffrey                  250-384-5344
                                                Marlene Bauer            778-433-0755

          Membership, Webmaster & "Weekly Dirt" newsletter:
                                                Nancy Fraser              250-508-2053

          "Guild-at-a-Glance" monthly newsletter:
                                               Peggy Elmes             250-642-4796

          Raffle:                           Esther Galac               250-658-4253
                                                Tobias Tomlinson        250-383-3893


is the newsletter for the South Vancouver Island Potters Guild. It is published monthly, September through June, and is distributed by email to all members. The newsletter is also posted online at
Articles and items of interest to members are welcome and will be included as space permits. Please email your submission to the editor, Peggy Elmes,

To print Guild-at-a-Glance

On a PC click the link at the top of this email to view in your browser. In the browser right click and choose print from the menu.