Qualicum Beach potter John Shauer displays a vase created using his crystalline pottery technique during last weekend's Arrowsmith Potter's Guild show and sale at Parksville Community Centre.

Latest potter case: The mysterious crystals

Qualicum Beach potter embraces emerging technique to create sparkling vases, bowls

John Shauer admits that part of the fun of creating his crystalline pottery is that even he has no idea what will emerge when he opens the kiln to remove the piece.

“Lots of these go into the garbage because the crystals don’t come out right,” said Shauer, 68. “But when you get one that’s right, they’re beautiful. You open the kiln and go, ‘Oh, look at that!’”

The results, some of which Shauer displayed during  Saturday’s Arrowsmith Potters Guild sale at Parksville Community Centre, can be striking.

The crystals “grow” from a specially mixed glaze. They are activated in the final hours of firing after the temperature of the kiln is reduced from the initial firing heat.

Until they begin to emerge from the background colour, Shauer said, he had no idea how many crystals will appear or what size or shape they will take.

“And with different temperatures, you can get different colours,” he said. “I can apply the same glaze two times and end up getting two completely different looks.”

The crystals form in a kaleidoscope of colour and shape, from circles to streaks to a sort of axe head shape with both curved a straight edges.

The application of additional layers of glaze can cause a halo effect or shadow, with the crystal appearing to have borders of one or more different shades.

But on many of occasions, Shauer said, the crystals simply run together into a blob, or do not emerge at all.

“You have to do it a long time to get good at it,” he said.  “If the glaze is off by one per cent, it doesn’t work. They’re very touchy; you get a lot of disasters.”

Browsers at last Saturday’s Arrowsmith Potter’s Guild sale look over the crystalline pottery of artisan John Shauer at Parksville Community Centre. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

Shauer, who also creates “traditional” pottery, has plenty of time to putter with his crystal formulas.

The former owner of a janitorial business in Vancouver, Shauer was a bit of a latecomer to pottery.

Born in Ontario before moving to the west coast with his family at the age of seven, he first took a pottery course in 1980.

But, he said, he immediately set it aside as he focussed on his business and raising a family. In 1995, he joined a potter’s club in Tsawassen as a hobby, “for something to do.”

Now, he says, he creates somewhat more work, but admits he does not make pottery on a full-time basis.

“Now that I’m retired, I don’t want to feel like I’m working,” he said with a laugh. “My partner (Sue Wilkinson) is much more prolific than I am.

“A lot of people are production potters. They have to keep cranking out work to sell. But I’m all over the place; I like experimenting.”

Shauer said he first stumbled upon the crystalline pottery technique in 2005. His initial impression was that the form was garish, but was swayed by the higher prices the pieces fetch at sales and in galleries.

On the other hand, he added, you have to go through a lot of time and material to earn that extra money.

“It takes a bit of luck,” he said. “The first time I did it, I got a beautiful pot. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, that was easy.’

“The next time, it was just nothing.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach soccer club assists young player in quest to attend elite European academy

Eagles donate $750 to Franks, who plans to further career in Portugal

WATCH: Berwick Qualicum Beach residents back with another music video

Residents and staff dance to ‘Drunken Sailor’ by The Irish Rovers

Virtual Qualicum school district meeting includes talk of return to class, masks and more

SD69 to hold town hall discussion featuring questions from parents

Qualicum Beach woman reunited with wedding ring she lost in Nanaimo

Woman ‘over the moon’ after getting ring back, say RCMP

‘Don’t kill my mom’: Ryan Reynolds calls on young British Columbians to be COVID-smart

‘Deadpool’ celebrity responds to premier’s call for social influence support

Captain Horvat’s OT marker lifts Canucks to 4-3 win over Blues

Vancouver takes 2-0 lead in best-of-7 NHL playoff series with St. Louis

Garbage truck knocks down lamp post onto pickup in north Nanaimo

Emergency crews respond to Dickinson Crossing plaza mall Friday afternoon

Widow of slain Red Deer doctor thanks community for support ahead of vigil

Fellow doctors, members of the public will gather for a physically-distanced vigil in central Alberta

Protesters showcase massive old yellow cedar as Port Renfrew area forest blockade continues

9.5-foot-wide yellow cedar measured by Ancient Forest Alliance campaigners in Fairy Creek watershed

Taking dog feces and a jackhammer to neighbourhood dispute costs B.C. man $16,000

‘Pellegrin’s actions were motivated by malice …a vindictive, pointless, dangerous and unlawful act’

Racist stickers at Keremeos pub leaves group uneasy and angry

The ‘OK’ hand gesture is a known hate-symbol

VIDEO: World responds to B.C. girl after pandemic cancels birthday party

Dozens of cards and numerous packages were delivered to six-year-old Charlie Manning

Most Read