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John D. Fisher, Potter
I’ve been doing pottery since my early college days. I’ve been teaching pottery for almost forty years. I’ve done pottery mostly as a personal pastime and passion for creative interaction and accomplishment. I consider my efforts as a “discipline” and yet, I’m not too. However, since I’ve retired from teaching, I’ve begun a more comprehensive practice that encompasses all aspects of a private studio and working ecology. I am learning and accomplishing more since I’ve stopped teaching all the time.
I don’t remember working with clay as a child other than mud pies. We didn’t have Play-Dough and “Gumby” got stuck in the carpet. We made model planes and cars from kits and mountains, tunnels, roads and lakes in the sand box or dirt lot. I do remember when I was in eight grade, I was obsessed with digging holes, but I always had to fill them in. Numerous experiences in the Redlands schools at the secondary level intrigued me further into an appreciation for form and plastic media.
However, when I moved to Newport Beach and went to Orange Coast College I learned ceramics. I would have been a Ceramics Major when I transferred to UCSB, but the department was full. My two years of ceramics at OCC did not transfer and I finally got into an intermediate class my last semester before graduating with a degree in painting. A little learning went a long way when I was anxious and interested. I continued to take ceramics classes through community and extension courses.
Friends like Tom Faught, Chris Henley and Richard Ambro were “compadres” in many adventures in ceramics. Each were highly trained and experienced with historical, cultural and technically diverse backgrounds in all aspects of the ceramic arts. From digging clay in the Corona mountains or scooping mud from the sand pit at Sand Canyon Road to hillside salt firings in the groves or cow shit, open pit fires at the high school, we blew up a lot of pots. If I learned anything from those early days it was to just enjoy the clay of the earth and the fire of air. I love ceramics. Everyone’s life would be better if we include a little clay.
At first I thought I would be a “hand-builder.” I enjoyed pinch and coiling. However, a lot of time goes into a large coil pot and its appreciation is reserved and tenuous. I bought a Lockerbee kick wheel in 1972, the only wheel I’ve ever owned. I carried with me the belief that a hand-made gift was more meaningful than a purchased gift (especially on a teachers salary) so I began annual production events each time the gift-giving seasons approached.
My first raku kiln was made of firebricks from the ruins of a smelting kiln out on Bell Mountain. My three year old daughter “grape-stomped” wedging clay in her wading pool and I tapped into the gas line going to the water heater at our Apple Valley apartment. I made glazes out of borax soap and some clay we found spelunking in the desert. Those were the days that have influenced me most. I heard about the teachings of Paul Soldner while working with one of his former students (forget her name, Margaret something). Richard Ambro guided our studies and enriched our vision for seeking an authentic connection and adherence to designated practice while making the ceramics we made.
I settled for the practical application of the electric kilns standard in public schools. But, I continually worked at and applied differing clay and glazing tactics. Thirty seven years of teaching ceramics to all ages and levels of interest and working alongside endlessly dedicated potters and students has helped me to learn to . . . still . . . appreciate just “the doing.”
However, just “the doing” soon requires “doing something with whatever you’ve done.” Oh yeah, . . . and paying for it. So, . . . check out my Folk-Craft Products from Fisher's Folk-Craft Pottery.
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