Once I discovered that making pottery was what I wanted to do with my life, I became committed. I broke all ties with my past (jobwise) and spent every moment trying to learn my craft. I went back to college (got good grades), then I worked at organizing my life so I could go somewhere and make pots. That meant that everything that got in the way had to be forgotten for about four years.
I didn’t buy a new TV or car or take a vacation—the only allowable expenses beyond those necessary for daily life were for supplies and equipment as I saved toward the day I could buy a studio building. Keeping that goal in the front of my mind was hard. It is easy to buy something that is fun rather than putting money aside toward a goal that seems years away. I guess being older helped.
By the time I was out of school, I was 36 and I felt I didn't have too many years left to squander if my dream was going to come true. I was 40 before I really got my studio business rolling. I found my studio in the form of an old powerhouse building, near where I went to school. It has been both a growing and learning process and yes, I have made some mistakes along the way, but I have always refused to cut corners in any way that affects the high quality and brilliance of the pottery I produce.
My motive in making pottery is not terribly noble. I am merely trying to cause a little celebration in everyday living. You can't imagine what I feel when my customers tell me how much they enjoy using one of my pots in their daily routine.
When designing pots, I am always aware of the possibilities and limitations of the wonderful and dreadful layered glaze I employ. An enigmatic mistress, it is very fussy about the body it resides upon. It often crawls, blisters and cracks and the color isn't always reliable. Though demanding, it is however, just too vibrant and exciting to simply dismiss as too troublesome. This means that everything must be technically perfect in order to achieve its full potential. Because I refuse to compromise in these processes, I have had to learn clay production and firing techniques that are not used in most studio potteries.
In addition to his namesake “Northern Lights” pottery, Bill Campbell also produces our popular Stellar Pottery which features beautiful crystalline glazes.
Pottery is food safe. All Campbell glazes are made from scratch and then are fired to proper maturity. No lead is used in any glaze. Uneven heating and extreme temperature changes must be avoided for long and happy use of pottery.
Oven—Put the food in the pottery and place in a cold oven, then start the heating cycle, so everything comes up to temperature together. Yes, you can do pies this way. Do not put very cold or frozen food on the pottery and start the heating cycle. This will create uneven heating. Thermal shock will crack your pottery. Be careful removing pottery from the oven, it will be very hot and it holds the heat well. NEVER preheat the oven when using pottery in it.
Microwave—Pottery works well in the microwave for heating liquids, melting butter, re-heating leftovers (food not frozen). About 2 ½ – 3 minutes is the top end. Heat water for tea in a mug for about 1 ½ minutes. DO NOT take a cold dish out of the refrigerator and put it in the microwave and heat it. The edge will get hotter than the center, causing thermal shock. Flat items like plates are the most vulnerable pieces in the thermal shock arena. Consider not microwaving food on them unless you enjoy gambling. Curved surfaces always take stress better that flat. Always be careful handling pottery after heating it, it holds heat well and can burn you.
Dishwasher—Pottery can be washed in the dishwasher without a problem if it fits. The heated dry cycle can stress flat pieces like plates in some units. Consider not using the heated dry cycle if you are concerned. Do not take the very hot pottery out of a just finished dishwasher cycle and put it in a cold cupboard, or fill with ice, etc. Always think about stress on the ware with fast, uneven heating or cooling.
Stovetop, Open Flame, Freezer—Never. It is not safe for pottery. It can crack and cause breakage, a mess, and even injury to you. Do not broil food in pottery, it causes uneven heating. Uneven heating and stress is hazardous to pottery. It cannot flex, so it will break.
Serving hot food in pottery—It is best to temper the pottery (preheat) to avoid stressing it. Before use, run hot water from the tap into the mug, teapot, soup bowl, serving dish, etc. Let it sit in the sink and warm all the way through. Dry off the pottery if desired, then fill with your favorite hot liquids or food and enjoy!
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