Cobalt Inlays

Inlayed Cobalt Technique

Artist Profile:

Polychrome Slip OverlayJan McGregor has studied the art of pottery under some of the world's finest craftsmen, and has evolved a unique style available from her seaside shop on tranquil Whidbey Island. Although Ms. McGregor works at times with stoneware clay, for aesthetic reasons, she specializes in fine porcelain clay, the most demanding and exquisite of all pottery mediums. McGregor porcelains are found in the homes of collectors throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and the Far East.

Coupeville's artist-potter has a special affinity with the Far East. She spent two years studying porcelain pottery techniques in Japan, including a year in residence in the private studio of Mr. Kihei Koyama of Kyoto. Koyama sensei (master) is one of Japan's finest master potters, and Professor of Ceramics at Kyoto University of Fine Art. He was a student of, and became assistant to, Japan's National Treasure, the late master potter Kenkichi Tomimoto.

Ms. McGregor also studied with Trent Thompson at the Villa Montavo Art Center, Los Gatos, California. Thompson is the protégé of American master potter, the late Dr. Herbert Sanders. In addition she studied with third generation potter John Novy in San Diego, California.

A professional potter since l973, Ms. McGregor has combined unique glazes including chun, oil spot, celadons, cobalt blues, crackles and copper reds, with her interest in the classic simplicity of Oriental pottery. She is perhaps the only American potter using natural porcelain clay which she imports from Japan for its superior fineness, purity and translucency.

Her decorative techniques include a revision of an inlaid cobalt decoration developed by Kenkichi Tomimoto that is, to present knowledge, found nowhere else outside of Japan, except in this artist's studio. The cobalt used is Chinese "gosu," natural cobalt containing small amounts of iron and manganese, imported from China by the artist in l984. Unfortunately the source of this natural cobalt is now depleted. Even through the gosu has been reduced to powder form, the artist grinds it in an automatic mortar and pestle for thirty days continuously to achieve the fineness necessary to lay into the carvings. From beginning to end, each of these pieces represents a cycle of eighteen different processes.

Ms. McGregor's most distinctive work involves a polychrome slip overlay process which, to present knowledge, is done by no other potter in the world. Porcelain clay and metallic oxides are ground together to form a colored "slip" (a homogeneous mixture of clay, oxides and water). This liquid colored "slip" is applied with the smallest of brushes one tiny stroke at a time. Each stroke must dry completely before another stroke touches it to avoid cracking. Up to fifty layers of these tiny strokes are built up to form a raised three-dimensional decoration. The surface is then smoothed and sculpted and a clear glaze applied. When fired, a multitude of colors appear beneath the clear glaze.

Ms. McGregor's pieces can be distinguished not only through their beauty and precision, but through her personal mark on the bottom of each piece; a tiny scene representing earth, fire, air and water--the four elements of the piece--also representing her personal commitment to purity, perfection and integration of the earth's natural elements with the spiritual.

The Jan McGregor studio is in an historic building on Front Street in Coupeville, Washington and is open Saturday and Sunday throughout the year, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. In summer months the studio is open every day during these hours. Special appointments may be arranged by calling (360) 678-5015.

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