Time and again I am amazed to find how accessible and giving the artists in the Door County community are. Peninsula School of Art is located in the heart of Door County, its location a metaphor for the regard these artists have for the organization.
This devotion became evident recently while I prepared for the upcoming SOUP! project, which benefits both our outreach programming and the needs of a partnering nonprofit. Using a clay project as a vehicle for the community to create saleable objects, this year we created tiles instead of bowls. It seemed a simple transition. I soon discovered that although we were utilizing the same medium, tiles and bowls are two very different "animals." I came to rely heavily on the help of the members of the Door County Potters' Guild.
What could be different? For one, the inherent warping of a flat tile if the clay is not handled correctly. Other issues included a specific method of glazing and the preparation of the tile before both the bisque and glaze firings. Another particularly trying problem for me was to get air bubbles out of the clay through the wedging technique. I couldn't do it, but Ellison Bay Pottery's John Dietrich volunteered to help me out -- wedging over 100 pounds.
Reneé Schwaller, of Off the Wheel Pottery, and Jeanne Aurelius, of Clay Bay Pottery, instructed me in the decorative techniques of sgraffito and knife-and-slip, respectively. Schwaller and Aurelius, as well as Tony Staroska from Juddville Clay Studio, shared with me their techniques on how to keep a tile flat as it dries. I also sought the advice of "Thor" Thoreson from Gills Rock Stoneware regarding successful handling of the tiles.
It has always taken a village to make the SOUP! project a success. But, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sharing of the Guild in this year's project. It truly could not have been accomplished without them.
When thanking Thor for his help, his reply was typical of those of the other Guild members, graciously calling to mind the late mentor of the group, Abe Cohn, whose example promotes a pay it forward attitude of giving.
"We are more than happy to help, just as Abe Cohn gave to us," he said.