Putting it in the simplest manner, I like to make pots, and I like to make lots of pots so I can see the progression of ideas. By making a large number, I can explore subtle differences in each piece: the swell of the shape of the belly of the pot, the way the rim ends, the foot, the surface texture.
I’ve been quietly making pots on and off since 1975. I live in Abbotsford with my wife Val, daughter Aisa, and our 2 cats. During the last 20+ years we've concentrated on raising our 2 daughters, Alexa and Aisa. Val and I have spent a lot of time doing the usual things you do when raising kids. Both girls played ice hockey, soccer and baseball, and swam in swim club during the summers. We spent many weekends at swim meets in the summer and in many cold hockey rinks during the winter. Lots of fun & we both enjoyed that time with our daughters.
I grew up in Abbotsford and I was able to work with a local potter, Herman Venema, who encouraged my interest. My training took me to Georgian College in Ontario, where I studied with a British potter, Roger Kerslake. After school finished, I set up a pottery and ran a retail pottery store in Ft. Langley for a couple of years. I then travelled, and finished a degree at SFU. Val and I met and got married and we raised two amazing daughters.
I worked at Greenbarn Potters Supply for 20 years while the kids grew up, the last 15 years as manager. We supplied potters in BC with clay, kilns, and all the supplies they needed. I enjoyed my time there and really liked the customers and staff. Working with Stan Clarke, who started Greenbarn in the early 1970's, was particularly enjoyable. Stan was a great guy, friendly with everyone and very generous with his time and knowledge.
Now, that the kids are older, I am able to spend more time in the pottery studio and Val and I can attend farmers markets and shows together. All pieces are made by hand in our workshop here in the Fraser Valley, on the west coast of Canada.
When I got back into the workshop, I set up based on a production model, since all my training was as a production potter. This is where I would make a specific line of work that could be re-ordered. However, over the past 4 years as we’ve sold at farmers markets we’ve found that the pieces can be individual. Market shoppers seem to like the variety of work and repeat customers often come looking for what’s new. This frees me to make what I like and as my interests change, this is reflected in the work. Creating fresh pieces keeps it interesting and creative. So now we make a range of items, always changing, with lots of variety. We enjoy doing the markets and meeting everyone.
My work is largely thrown on the wheel and then altered, distorted, carved, or stamped. Currently I only make a few simple forms, but I like exploring all the variations within the constraints of those forms: shape, texture, surface treatment, different glazes, firing and glaze techniques in gas, salt, and wood. The possibilities are endless.
Generally I work in a series of pieces. I’ll sit down and make a series of mugs or bowls. For example, with mugs, I’ll begin with small, medium, and large sizes, but they may have different shapes, stamping, or brushwork. Slips are added and removed from the surface. I’ll glaze them in different colors, and fire in one of the three kilns I use, getting a variety of results. So the mugs will all have a similarity, but each piece will be different. I think this makes each piece truly unique.
My work is fired in a small gas kiln built on my old friend Herman Venema’s rural farm property. A salt/soda kiln there is used for salt firings and occasionally I have access to a wood kiln. I fire in atmospheric kilns because of the varied fired results and glaze effects that you get from these kilns. Currently I fire in 3 different atmospheric kilns: gas, salt, and wood; each of which gives a distinct fired result. With gas firing, there is an interaction between the clay, glaze, and atmosphere in the kiln. Iron in the stoneware clays interacts with the glaze, causing a speckling in the glaze.
Currently I make pieces within the following broad styles:
Rustic: fired in the gas kiln, the outside surfaces are unglazed, giving rough textural surfaces.
Retro: fired in the gas kiln, speckled glazes that hearken back to the 70’s & 80’s.
Carved: fired in the gas kiln, using a white clay and carving through slips to reveal the clay beneath. there is not specking in the glaze when using the white clay, so you get a very clean look.
Salt-fired: In this process, at the end of the firing, a salt/soda mixture is thrown in the kiln, and this fuses with the surface of the clay, making a glaze and giving some interesting and varied results. The salt leaves a distinctive orange-peel effect, often bleaching out the glazes, giving quite different finishes. Firing in salt requires more work and the pieces are more expensive than gas-fired work.
Wood-fired: I’ve recently been introduced to wood firing. The kiln is fired with wood only and this produces a beautiful fired result where the flame hits the pot and where wood ash is deposited on the surface of the clay. Variations in the flame produce different effects on each pot, and marks are left on the pot as the fire and ash flow around the pot. Firing with wood requires even more work than salt or gas, so the pieces are more expensive.
All the work is dishwasher and microwave safe. Glazes are made from scratch by hand, & they are lead free and food safe. Although we mostly sell at various farmers markets in the lower mainland, we also sell at a couple of stores, and do a variety of craft shows during the year.
Family comes first to us and to reflect that, we’ve named the workshop "pottery by dave & family”.