Ward believes the handmade look of her functional pieces contributes to their beauty.
Ask Evelyn Ward why she is a potter and her answer is simple: “I love clay and I’m just not happy unless I have a creative outlet.” With each piece uniquely made by hand, her soda-fired pieces combine functionality and art in a way that makes it a welcome addition to any kitchen cabinet.
A graduate of California State University at Fullerton, Ward left with a degree in printmaking yet spent much of her time in the school’s ceramics studio. “I found ceramics to be very freeing,” she says. During the day she worked as a graphic designer in a real estate office, but spent her evenings moonlighting at her wheel. Ward soon began selling her pottery part-time, which allowed her to slowly begin building a studio.
She took as many classes as possible at her local community college, then signed up for courses at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. It was there that she mastered her signature soda-firing technique, noting, “I loved the look of the surfaces. I like that you don’t know what you are going to get.” After the housing bubble burst, she left her job and turned to pottery full time, opening Evelyn Ward Pottery in 2009.
Ward’s process begins with a sketch, then she moves to the pottery wheel. After the piece is thrown, she decorates using a slip trailer and matte glazes. “When I sit at my wheel, I try to focus on how each piece will be used—how the rim will feel against the lip, whether the handle will be comfortable to the hand and if the pot’s form will hold someone’s interest years from now,” she explains.
Ward’s work is constantly evolving, including incorporating some of her previous printmaking skills into the designs. But don’t expect her to move away from functional pieces. “I always keep in mind that my work is functional and should work as intended. I’m so grateful that I can pursue what I want to do, what I love,” she says, “and that people respond to it.”
This article was first published in the Spring 2011 edition of NICHE magazine. To see the artist’s current work, go to www.evelynwardpottery.com