Cherrico Pottery BIG Pots at Midwest Art Festivals

Art in Bayfront Park

Joel Cherrico will be exhibiting and performing live pottery demonstrations on his York Kick Wheel August 19th and 20th in Duluth, Minnesota at Art in Bayfront Park. One of Joel’s best BIG pottery jars will be on display, as well as a few of his best Cosmic Mugs. This will be Joel’s 7th year participating in this festival. He will also be crafting Cosmic Mugs live and anything else he’s inspired to throw, while breathtaking Lake Superior shimmers in the background.

Just one of his Big Pots will be on display in Duluth. They take a LONG time to make. In a hurried month, Joel can throw, fire and finish 100+ Cosmic Mugs in under a week and have them ready to order, but one Big Pot takes several months from start to finish. Just the drying takes a few months! Read about how Joel creates these beautiful works of art in a blog post he wrote back in 2012:

Big Pots deserve to be displayed on a stand as beautiful as the Big Pots themselves. So, Joel and his team have been creating beautiful wooden slabs over the last month to use as pedestals. The pedestals also help to level the jars on uneven ground. Four different types of wood slabs were harvested in sustainable ways from the St. John’s Arboretum with the help of a full-time forest technician: Aspen, Maple, Sugar Maple and White Oak. Slabs were dried slowly in Joel’s pottery kiln at 100 degrees C. for a few days, and then hand-planed, sanded and finished with love by local woodworker Tom Kuhn.

And yes… that is actually real gold in the bottom right corner of the gorgeous red jar. That is the Cherrico Pottery jar Joel plans to display in Duluth. Hope to see you there!

Millstream Arts Festival

September 24th, Joel’s artistic talent will be on full display when he participates (for the 7th time) in the Millstream Arts Festival, located in his home town, St. Joseph, Minnesota. This is where Joel lives, works and operates Cherrico Pottery. They even generously put his work on billboards around the city.

Joel will be set up with 3-5 more of his best Big Pots right in front of the Local Blend coffee shop, where you can eat an entire meal from his artwork everyday. This interview with the American Craft Council tells how they developed an innovative business model. A few things have changed, but you can still buy pottery everyday and anyone can still go eat an entire meal from innovative pieces of Cherrico Pottery. Hope to see you at Millstream!

Joel is passionate about supporting the community of St. Joseph, and his unique partnership with the Local Blend is a perfect example of that support. If you’re not too busy, come see Joel create his famous Cosmic Mugs and learn more about his artwork by absorbing the energy of his specialty “Big Pots” in person.

“The most important thing is communicating with the user. It is only when the user feels the presence of the hand of the potter that communication truly exists.”

– Warren Mackenzie, 1999 Distinguished Artist Award” The McKnight Foundation

Why We Treat Everyday Like Earth Day: Beautiful, Simple Ways To Be More Environmentally Friendly

*This is a guest blog post, edited by Joel Cherrico and written by Macy Kelly: CSB/SJU Marketing Intern at Cherrico Pottery. In this post, Macy addresses the ways we practice being eco-friendly at Cherrico Pottery. 

I’ve never met anyone who loves getting a box filled with packing peanuts. We know, they make a mess. At Cherrico Pottery, it’s important that we deliver your pottery as safely and as eco-friendly as possible. That’s why our peanuts are 100% biodegradable. Sustainability is a fun challenge that we take on in multiple parts of the Cherrico Pottery process.

Packing and Shipping

During Kickstarter, we used over 1,000 egg cartons to ship 1,000 pots. Egg cartons can always be requested via email during the checkout process in place of the biodegradable packing peanuts. When a shipment from Cherrico Pottery arrives, you will see the logo hand-painted on each box. This is because there is no point in branding with paper stickers or stamps on the boxes when we strive to be as unique and real as possible, while keeping the artistic vibe alive.

In The Studio

Joel sacrificed natural gas kiln firings and Copper Red Glazes, even though he used to get gorgeous results. You can view and learn about them in these three blog posts:

Gas Firing Stoneware Pottery at Cone 10: Natural Variations in the Copper Red Glaze

Glazing Handmade Ceramics at Cone 10: Painting with Fire

Copper Red Glazes: The Elusive Bright Red Pottery

His business model is devoted to long-term environmentalism. Gas kilns are easier to load and can produce beautiful pottery in bigger batches, but natural gas is a non-renewable resource. It doesn’t give opportunities to utilize free solar energy raining down from the sky. Electricity does. The electric kiln is not more environmentally friendly currently, but solar energy has the power to change that.

Kiln placement is another simple, smart choice that saves energy. Joel’s kiln is located in the middle of the studio, so it doubles as a radiant heater all winter. He also dries pottery using the heat of the kiln, saving energy and money every time he fires by being able to turn off other heaters.

Saving energy can be simple and beautiful, even with an act as simple as bringing pots outside to dry in the sun instead of using fans.

After taking a three day workshop from Steven Hill Pottery, Joel learned how to successfully apply up to 8 glaze layers on one pot. In this video, you can learn some of Steven Hill’s process too.

Cosmic Mugs have 4-5 layers of glaze each, but Joel chose not to purchase steel spray guns that Steven uses to get his magnificent colors. Spray guns require energy to fill a compressed air tank, as well as a spray booth to catch the airborne glaze chemicals. Instead, Joel created innovative ways to get similar effects simply using brushes.

It’s the same reason Joel uses kick wheels to make pottery rather than electric, motorized wheels.

Why Donations Relate to Environmentalism

Businesses aren’t required to use environmentally friendly materials or donate anything, ever. Cherrico Pottery has shipped worldwide to 16 countries, so we think it is only right to explore how we can help make the earth a better place. All of these donations are impacting the world in positive ways:

What’s Next? 

Our goal is to break ground on a new pottery studio that supports future pottery production with 100% solar fired pottery. This is a ridiculously ambitious goal, but not out of reach. If Tesla can debut an entire product launch on stored sunlight, then it must be possible to power a kiln.

If you want to help us accomplish this goal, please consider buying a pot.

🎁🎉 April Pottery Giveaway 🎁🎉

What’s one thing you do to encourage environmental sustainability? Leave a comment below before this Friday telling us one thing you do to try and be more environmentally friendly in your daily life, your job, hobbies, travel, anything! Joel will pick the best 3 comments and give them one of three pots ($459 value) totally free: World Record planter #26/159 ($159 value + $20 packing & shipping), one Cosmic Mug inspired by a Planetary Nebula ($125 + $15 packing & shipping) and one Cosmic Mug inspired by a Molecular Cloud Cluster ($125 + $15 packing & shipping).

To enter, you must leave one, genuine comment, or the moderator will not approve your comment or include you in the giveaway. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Please allow 24-48 hours for your comment to appear. You must also be on our email newsletter distribution list to qualify, so please make sure you are signed up. Joel will pick one winner Friday around 6pm Central and you will receive the pottery shipped to you nearly anywhere globally, totally free.

*UPDATE 4/28: ENDED. Congrats Holly, Liz and Kelsey and thanks so much to everyone who participated! Did you know that the word, “solar” was mentioned on this post/comments about 27 times and the words “recycle” and “recycling” and “recyclable” were mentioned about 275 times WOW! I hope you had as much fun reading these comments as I did. – Joel

Cosmic Pots: The “Goldilocks Glaze”

Thirty-four years ago, astronomer and Cosmos host Carl Sagan made his famous claim:

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan. “The Lives of the Stars.” Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. PBS. 1980.

Sagan could have been talking about making anything from scratch. His goal was to convey that everything on earth, everything in the universe, is made up of precise combinations of the most basic elements, and those elements were created in stars’ nuclear cores. We could also say, “If you wish to make a pot from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

These star-forged elements combine to form all the components of ceramics: the different strains of clay (silicon and iron), the water used in throwing (oxygen and hydrogen), the arboreal ingredients of glazes (calcium), and even the potter himself (carbon). Entire books could be written focusing solely on one of these ceramic elements.

copper red glazes pottery robert tichane cherrio potteryCopper, for example. Copper red glazes have been meticulously pursued and produced since the fifteenth century in China. The new host of Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson, often analyzes the concept of a “Goldilocks planet” – a planet which has the precise conditions for possibly sustaining life. A successful copper red glaze is a “Goldilocks glaze.” Everything in both the recipe and the firing must be perfect.

Joel Cherrico Pottery, Copper Red Glazes, Gas Kiln Firing
Caution: No room for error.

As Sagan and Tyson have taught us, science is found in everything we do. Baking an apple pie from scratch, developing a new drug, and mixing and firing glazes all rely on experimentation, creativity, and chemical reactions. A potter doesn’t need a degree in chemistry, but he uses some pretty cool science to produce copper red glazes.

Copper Red Pottery, Stoneware Wheel Thrown Mug, Cups, Handmade Pottery, Handmade Ceramic Pottery, sku 427, Image 5Nowadays, gas-fired kilns produce the best conditions for copper red glazes, but ancient Chinese potters created their beautiful pieces using only wood-fired kilns. Many potters do not have regular access to gas- or wood-fired kilns, and use electric ones instead. Electric kilns eliminate the need for constant temperature monitoring, but they are unable to create the atmosphere copper red glazes require.

48 x 40 in. wall poster for Handmade Grounds
Hello in there!

Copper red glazes need to be fired to a temperature called “cone 10.” This photo shows three cones (small pieces of clay), set up inside a gas-fired kiln. Each of these pieces is made from a different factory-produced type of clay formulated to melt at a certain temperature. A device called a pyrometer can be used to measure the temperature of the air inside the kiln, but what really matters is the temperature of the clay, hence the use of cones. When cone 10 melts, the potter knows the clay is roughly 2345 °F.

Handmade Pottery Ceramic Copper Red Bowl, Wheel-Thrown pottery, Handmade Stoneware, SKU 445, Image 3

Stoneware Wheel Thrown Mug, Cups, Handmade Pottery, Handmade Ceramic Pottery, sku 426, Image 1Even inside the same kiln, the atmosphere unavoidably varies. The pots below all had the same glaze and firing, but were placed in different areas of the kiln.

Copper Red and Green Glazes, Joel Cherrico Pottery Cups  The green color on the right also occurs when firing a copper glaze in an electric kiln.

Handmade Pottery Stoneware Mugs, Wheel-Thrown pottery, Handmade Stoneware, SKU 438, Image 1Glazing Pottery, Copper Carbonate Stain

Color, just like copper, depends on the stars. Light from our sun strikes objects on earth, and those objects absorb some wavelengths of light and reflect others. The wavelengths they reflect are the colors we see. As Tyson puts it:

“Color is the way our eyes perceive how energetic light waves are.” – Neil Degrasse Tyson. “Hiding in the Light.” Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Fox. 2014.

Thankfully, potters did not have to create the universe to make pots from scratch. Their ingredients are already present in the cosmos, swirling in the air and lurking in the earth, waiting for them.

Handmade Ceramic Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Copper, Cobalt, Iron, Glazes, Pottery

Chuquicamata Till Niermann
Chuquicamata Copper Mine in Chile. (Image: Property of Till Niermann, located in the Wikimedia Commons.)

Looking Back on my Pottery Trip to Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, ND

512 miles down a single stretch of highway led me straight to Prairie Fire Pottery. After almost 2 weeks of clay work, learning about pottery business, and relaxing with friends and cats, I feel thankful for such an amazing experience.

“My work is highly influenced by the North Dakota land…I grew up here, my soul is imprinted in the land.” – Tama Smith, owner of Prairie Fire Pottery.

This image below shows how Tama draws inspiration for her glazing and colors directly from North Dakota landscapes. Her glaze studio is full of photography. Prairie Fire Pottery, Tama Smith Glazing, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2014

Tama’s strongest voice comes out through her glazes: “In grad school, my teacher said, ‘Any potter can make cups and bowls. Your surfaces will set you apart.’ I don’t make much work in clay because I love glazing and firing the kiln.” I can’t wait to see how she uses my pots as canvases for her abstract landscapes.

Prairie Fire Pottery, Copper Red Glaze, 2014

Tama and I still found a way to collaborate in clay, as she learned my handle pulling technique and pulled over 100 handles for these tall, “car cup holder” mugs. Both our signatures are included on every pot, along with any other studio helpers that participate in the Praire Fire Pottery workshop. Check the Prairie Fire Pottery website in the near future to find these tall mugs, small dandelion vases, and square, casserole bakers that Tama will glaze in the coming months:

Tama Smith, Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2014

Small Vases, Pottery By Joel Cherrico and Tama Smith, Prairie Fire Pottery

Joel Cherrico Sculpture, 2014, Spiral, Nautalis sculpture Handmade Casserole Bakers, Joel Cherrico, Stoneware Bakers Casserole Bakers, Joel Cherrico, Stoneware Bakers Bakeware, Handmade Stoneware Bakers, Joel Cherrico, Prairie Fire Pottery

Visiting other potteries gave me perspective on the huge variety of ways that potters make a living. I bought a pot at Dakotah Clayworks in Hebron, ND at their self-serve gallery!

North Dakota, Dakotah Clay Works, Self Serve Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2014

Stay tuned for more of my work showing up in American Craft Council and Ceramics Monthly, as I’ve been accepted to write in upcoming publications online and in print!

Ceramics Monthly, American Craft Council, Ceramics Technical magazine, Joel Cherrico Pottery Writing Publications

Lastly, my online store is finally back up and running, with mugs, cups and a few speciality pots, like collaborative pots with renowned painter Paige Dansinger. Paige is moving to a new gallery in Minneapolis! We have plans to perform collaborative art making and show work in her new space.

Painted Pottery, Paige Dansinger, Joel Cherrico Pottery, 2014  Pottery by Joel Cherrico, 2014

Studio Guest and Production Thrower at Prairie Fire Pottery, Beach, ND

Tama Smith is the founder and owner of Prairie Fire Pottery in Beach, ND. Her production studio is 1 mile off Interstate 94, just before the Montana boarder. We met years ago, when I was traveling west to ski Red Lodge Mountain in Montana. During this year’s NCECA in Milwaukee, we randomly reconnected at a small, Armenian restaurant.

“Hey Joel! Great to see you! I’ve been following your blog. When are you going to come work at my studio?”

The conversation continued with a quick facebook message a week later…

“You should come work in my studio a bit…what say ye? Come make your work and fire in my kiln and we’ll sell it in the gallery. We have a bungalow where you could sleep, cook and shower.”

Last Tuesday, I drove 7 hours west for a 2 week stint to throw pots and learn about the thriving studio Tama has built in Beach, ND.

Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Pottery Adventures, Minnesota Potter, North Dakota Potter
Coincidentally, we use the exact same clay from Continental Clay!

Continental Clay, Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, collaboration
Tama’s crew consists of her husband, family, friends, visiting artists and production potters. Collectively, they operate a thriving gallery, production pottery studio and online store. “People thought we were crazy to set up in Beach, ND.” says Tama’s husband, Jerry: “Our philosophy was, ‘Go where they ain’t.’ I-94 is like a river. 3 million people drive past us each year, and we’ve become a magnet, drawing people in.”

The best part of this experience is being in a thriving studio at peak production, making 7-8,000 pots per year. The studio, storage and gallery shelves are jam packed with pots. Again, Jerry shares his experience of how decades of hard work has led to success: “It’s like feast or famine around here. We’re getting ready for the summer feast. In 1 month the gallery will be packed and we’ll need extra help just to keep up with sales.”

Most of my days are spent on the wheel, throwing hundreds of pots that Tama will glaze, fire and sell in the gallery. Our collaboration also reaches into wet clay work, where Tama trims and decorates some of my forms. Here are some process shots that show our collaboration, shots of the Prairie Fire Pottery gallery, studio and cats:

Prairie Fire Pottery, Showroom, Beach North Dakota Pottery

Prairie Fire Pottery, Showroom, Beach, North Dakota Pottery Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Stoenware Hump Throwing, York Kick Wheel Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Stoenware Travel Mugs Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Stoenware vases Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Stoneware cup collaboration Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, Nessie the Bungalow Cat Prairie Fire Pottery, Joel Cherrico Pottery, studio cat