What was your calling to create pottery?
I've always been drawn to and interested in pottery. It was always part of my life, even before I decided to work in that medium. There are a lot of potters in and around my hometown of Watkinsville, Georgia and my mom collected pottery created by local potters. About 13 years ago, a friend suggested we take a pottery on the wheel workshop at Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art. I was pretty much hooked after that and have taken a few classes since then to try to learn more.
Was there a particular piece that sparked your interest?
Visiting one of the Southern Highland Craft Guild galleries in Asheville, North Carolina 15 or 20 years ago, I saw some pieces by a particular artist that I really loved. I think it was the first time I had seen something decorated using sgraffito (in Italian "to scratch") and I wanted to know how to make something like that. It's such a great technique, like a linocut and ceramics at the same time!
Where or what do you pull inspiration from the most?
As far as the decoration goes, nature and my cats. My cat mugs have been very popular, so I draw inspiration from my rescue and foster cats. They are so cute and funny, I want that to come across in my work.
Do you find you are more comfortable sticking to a theme or to be spontaneous?
For my own sanity, I pretty much have to be spontaneous. I am happier with my work when I make whatever interests me at that moment. Most of my pieces are one of a kind. Sometimes I try to do place settings or small sets, but I lose interest quickly and they end up being variations of a theme.
What is the most difficult technical aspect of pottery for you? Can you give us an example of how this changed the way you approach a difficult piece?
I find it incredibly difficult to be consistent—I have come to the conclusion that I will never be a production potter. Other than that, I'm not sure what I would say is the most difficult technically. I still have so much to learn and still need to perfect skills I already know. Like most disciplines, skills are honed over a lifetime. I approach each piece, and especially something I find more challenging, with planning. I try to pre-visualize the process and the anticipated result. Particularly with throwing, you only have a limited amount of time with the clay before everything goes wrong. Right now, I'm really working on throwing with purpose and efficiency.
What is the one thing you really love about creating?
The creative process is very fulfilling for me and I love the tactile feedback I get from clay. Also, I have found that I really enjoy the reactions from people at art festivals. It's so great to have someone see a piece from 30 feet away and hurry over to get a closer look. I create pieces that make me happy, and seeing someone else get really excited about one of my pots is really gratifying.
Locally, I have several pieces at the West End Market and Bakery, located at 1808 Broad Street, across from the Kroc Center. I will also have a booth, J. Vaz Pottery, at Arts in the Heart, September 19-21. Also, I occasionally post images on Facebook: facebook.com/jvazpottery