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visiting potters - wanda holmes (tile-maker)

updated tue 10 dec 02


"Steven D. Lee on mon 9 dec 02

I had the distinct pleasure in visiting a fellow potter, Wanda
Holmes. I will let her own words introduce her.
"I am a tilemaker who has been working in clay (obsessed with clay)
for 3 years - I started in Jan. 2000, the beginning of a new era.

I consider myself still a journeyman and have not tried to sell any
of my work yet. I work in clay parttime as I still have the job that
pays the bills and can't quite seem to give it up. My focus for the
last year has been:

- trying to decide just what range I want to work in - lowfire,
midfire, or highfire. Finding the right combination of claybody and
glazes that give me the durability I want and the look that I want
has been a much bigger challenge than I ever would have imagined.

- trying to get my losses due to warping down to an acceptable level.

- learning glaze chemistry and developing my own set of shop glazes.

It's been a challenging and sometimes frustrating year, but one in
which I feel I've definitely graduated from the newbie category. My
goal for next year is to move back to a more creative (as opposed to

Let me say that there is so much more not said in this introduction
that should be acknowledged.

For one thing, Wanda is one of the most organized, detail oriented,
scientifically minded potter I have ever met. One all of her clay
body and glaze tests she has kept extensive notes. I could pick up
any tile from her studio and she could tell me not only what clay
body and glaze was used but exactly where in her electric kiln it was
fired, what temperature, what absorbtion and shrinkage rate of each
piece and the relative crushing strength of the tile in relation to
manufactured tile that is sold for floors.

Between her and her husband they have made several tools which assist
her with making tiles and testing them. One of the most intriguing
tools was a one ton press that had a torque gauge on it. They would
set a specifically sized piece of test tile in it, position it
between two posts and slowly press down on it. At the point that it
would crack they would measure the torque it took. It was
interesting to find out that a lot of store bought tile was very
brittle compared to most of the clay tiles that Wanda herself had
produced. This is a woman who is serious about making a product that
far surpasses the standard "commercial-grade" tile out there!!!!

I found that I was very humbled in knowing that here is a potter who
is so concerned with the quality of the finished product that she
refuses to sell tiles to people until she gets one that is
consistently warp-free, strong, super low absorption rate, and with
the most durable glaze she can find. I admire her commitment to
quality!! Even though I think she could sell some individual tiles
and make some money because her quality right now is so high!!!

Wanda is extremely knowledgable in what clay bodies and glazes
produces which results on which clay bodies that with her notes she
could write a pottery book on the subject, and I would be one of the
first ones to purchase it. (If there are any publishers out there or
people that could encourage her to do so give a yell).

Wanda is not alone in this crusade for fine art. Her husband
produces some gorgous wood turned bowls and containers. Picking up
one and feeling the burl of the wood, the texture of the grain and
the time and devotion that goes into each one, I found myself feeling
the same feelings I get when holding a piece of pottery. I can see
why they make such a good creative team!

I encourage you to talk with Wanda if you have any interest in tile-
making or have found the holy grail of warp-free tile-making and
would like to share that information with her.

I could give no higher compliment to a potter but this; After
visiting her I went back and spent the rest of the weekend in my own
studio, feeling joy in my work again, inspired and enthusiastic about
the art of pottery!!!

Steven D. Lee
SD Pottery - The Little Texas Pottery
14341 FM 112
Thrall, TX 76578