John fell in love with clay while studying at Bryn Athyn College near Philadelphia. One semester at Tyler Art School nearby, cemented this passion when it coincided with Ensica Annual clay bash, which was hosted in Philadelphia that year. “It’s not that I learnt all that much about clay at college, but rather that I got to hang out with people who could create pure magic from a lump of clay with very little other than an unusually well-developed sense of exploration and experimentation”.
So from helping Rolf Roelofson build one of his “statement kilns” to wedging every conceivable oxide into clay and salt firing it to Raku firing things that were too big to move cold, never mind at 1000 degrees c, to stuffing a TV into a wood kiln at 1400 degrees C late, late one night, to hanging out with some eastern European potters who had been brought to America from behind the Iron curtain for the first time thanks to Glasnost and the American endowment of the arts. John had to return to Cape Town to try and make a living out of clay.
John Raku fired in Muizenburg for four years and sold to galleries and at craft markets. In 1995 Louise Whitelaw, Johns best friend and lover of six years agreed to marry him on condition that she could give up being an air hostess. John and Louise got married, got a loan, got a jigger, a 40 ft kiln and some staff to help. Soon they were supplying Cape Town with good looking well priced crockery through all the craft markets. Soon after a move to Bot River where they rented premises on the Beaumont wine farm, John started reduction firing. “at first I could not give it away” says John “but now it’s my signature range.
Louise and John made a real success out of there crockery business and were able to build their dream home, studio and shop in Bettys Bay with the proceeds, that took 3 years. Around that time 3 things happened pretty much simultaneously, Louise got pregnant (very bad for trading at craft markets every sat and Sunday) John got really sick of mass producing crockery (really bad for supplying tons of it too craft markets every sat and Sunday) and thirdly Trevor Manuel opened the flood gates of cheap Chinese imports (really bad for sales).
The paradigm shift from craft market crockery to art gallery ceramics has led John and Louise to venture back into Raku and Saggar firing as well as expand on the palette of reduction glazes for which John is becoming increasingly well known.
Louise, John, their son Gabriel and daughter Grace live above the pottery studio/gallery with their bull terrier Delilah in Bettys Bay.
The gallery is on 3291 Clarence Drive (the main road through Betty’s Bay) and is open seven days a week from 9:30 to 5 pm
For more information please visit http://johnthepotter.co.za/
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• Tel: 028 272 9623
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