Featured Potter: Van Baker

Van tells us a little about himself:

In my latest iteration I have been making ceramics for about eight years. Prior to that I had a couple of brushes with pottery where I was intrigued but other things got in the way. The first time it was college and the second time it was having children, two beautiful daughters, and all the things that come with that. The daughters are grown up now so I have nothing to get between me and ceramics other than my nine to five job which does its best to keep me away from making pots. I guess that has some benefits otherwise I would be overrun with pots.

I have two wheels in my garage and a bisque kiln but I still come to class on Thursday nights at Blossom Hill Crafts because I really enjoy the people in the class. We have a lot of fun and Matt and Isabel make sure the class stays fun with activities like throwing blindfolded or musical wheels where we rotate between wheels every minute or two. I have learned over the years that the camaraderie between potters is a genuine gift. I have met several famous potters at workshops over the last few years and they are all just plain nice people who love to talk about pots and are willing to share techniques, glaze formulas and firing secrets willingly. That is one of the things that makes me love ceramics.

I have two favorite potters that I see in a class by themselves – Tom Coleman and Frank Boyden. I find their work spectacular and can spend hours just looking at a piece from these artists. Coleman’s surface decoration both via his manipulation of the surface of the clay and his glaze application make for truly beautiful and elegant pieces. Coleman’s mastery of porcelain is incomparable. Frank Boyden’s drawing and surface distortions together with his mastery of woodfire makes for pots that are truly striking in their artistry. The recent collaboration between Coleman and Boyden resulted in an amazing body of work.

I have the pleasure of being able to woodfire with good friends and I feel privileged to be able to do this. I have been able to fire at Spring Valley anagama for the last few years. Phil Park, who owns the property that also has a naborigama, is a pleasure to fire with and is gracious in his hospitality. The crew that fires at Spring Valley also includes Matt and Isabel, and some BHC alums including Jerry Hurst and Shawn Johnson.

I confess that I truly love the surfaces that I get out of a woodfire. They are just spectacular with so many dimensions to the pot that they can be enjoyed for a lifetime. I like atmospheric firings of all types and share ownership of a soda kiln with Matt, Ken Wallace and Matt Brown that we keep at Clay Planet. In addition to woodfire and soda firing I like to fire in reduction at BHC. I spray my glazes and often combine six or seven glazes layered on one piece. This makes for very rich surfaces that offer a complexity that makes for unique pieces. That richness of surface whether woodfire, soda or sprayed glazes is what is important to me.

Pictures of Van’s work (will be featured in our online store soon)

2 Responses to “Featured Potter: Van Baker”

  1. BHCAdmin February 1, 2011 at 12:58 pm Permalink

    I really like your work Van. Especially the Teapot at the bottom. The surfaces on all of them are just beautiful.

  2. Evelyn Chapin February 6, 2011 at 2:46 pm Permalink

    Hey Van, Thanks for sharing your art. The surfaces are beautiful and it makes me hungry to be adventurous! Miss seeing you on Thursday nights, but best to all of you!

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