Joan MillerMaking hand built pots is my passion. As I start a series of pots, I play with textures to figure out which ones to use. The big slab of clay is like a texture sketch pad. Sometimes the textures suggest a shape; other times I start knowing what kind of pot I want to make. The exploration of possibilities allows me to find new ways to make form and texture relate in a functional piece.
After college, armed with a B.A. in art from Willamette University, for several years I taught painting and drawing to high school students. My life as a potter began when I needed to teach my students to use the potter’s wheel, and I realized that my undergraduate ceramics classes didn’t give me the necessary technical foundation. In the course of earning a Master of Arts degree in ceramics at San Diego State University, I became a potter.
Basic elements that produce pottery—earth, water, and fire—haven’t changed over the centuries. Thousands of years ago or today, the process is the same—clay made permanent by exposure to high temperatures. Each pot I make captures a moment of my life and creative spirit. I’m particularly interested in making functional forms for daily use.
Throwing on the wheel was my initial emphasis in ceramics. Gradually I became fascinated by the way glaze breaks over textured clay and I moved away from carving thrown pots and began to texture slabs and form pots with those patterned pieces of clay. Concurrently I developed stamps and rollers with texture to pattern the slabs. Much of my glaze testing involves testing layered colors to discern which glaze combinations best highlight patterns on pots.
After retiring and moving to Reno, I established a studio at my home. My studio kiln is an L&L electric that I fire to cone 6. After many years of high temperature firing in a gas reduction in kiln San Diego, it was necessary to do extensive glaze testing to identify which cone 6 glazes best enhance the patterns on my work. Twice a year I fire my work in a large wood-burning anagama kiln at Great Basin Pottery in Doyle, California where I’m part of a pottery community.
My intent is to express each functional shape in a simple form to produce a pot that is both visually pleasing and comfortable to use. Ultimately I feel successful if the person who owns the pot loves to use it.