Post by Judy Howell
After several years of moving around, the arrival of our 2nd boy, pottery wheel and kiln in tow, we landed in the Flathead Valley. My husband was then in real estate and in 1979 the perfect piece of property... which had a house in which to raise our family and an old building right on Hiway 2 which we would convert into a real estate office for Dick and a pottery shop for me fell into our lap!
This building was an old gas station and repair shop built in the 40's when Hungry Horse dam was being built....Thurston's Garage. It was made from old railroad ties so was basically sound, but very rough around the edges. We set about putting in new windows, insulation and sheetrock, roofing and doors.
I decided to take some ceramics classes at Flathead Valley Community College to acquire more knowledge and hone my skills and makng glazes, as I was interested in expanding from red clay planters to glazed ware.
Taking the information back to the shop and enlisting my husband, Dick's (he had a keen interest in minerals and was excited about the challegne of coming up with glaze recipes which would work on our clay body), help we refined our clay recipe to fire at a higher temperature resulting in a stronger, more vitrified clay body. With much trial and error our ability to offer glazed ware was born.Our first glazeware were pieces which had the traditional slip decoration on the bisqueware with a coat of clear glaze applied before the final firing, resulting in a look which echoed the traditional method of glazing earthenware,but resulting in much more functional ware.
I was still using the old kick wheel salvaged from the burned down warehouse where my pottery journey began. My father was a very inventive man who loved solving problems and making things in his basement shop. He told me he always wanted to make a potter's wheel and was so happy when I decided to become a potter and he had an excuse to make a wheel! He made me that pottery wheel, again a kick wheel. About then it became clear to me that if I was going to be a production potter the old kick wheel would have to go and we needed to motorize the new kick wheel....which my dad was happy to do. A new kiln was acquired along with two pug mills...one for mixing the clay and one which screened and deaired it. We were in business!