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Antiques & Collectibles: ‘Each piece is truly unique’

February 5, 2017 GMT

Looking at some pottery on display, I wondered how many people actually know that there are three major types of pottery.

From the “Potter’s Dictionary of Materials and Techniques,” by Frank Hamer, “Earthenware is usually made of baked clay and must be glazed to make it useful to liquids. Terracotta is earthenware that has not been glazed. Majolica and creamware are just two of the many types of glazed earthenware. Stoneware is a hard glazed ceramic, like porcelain, but is generally opaque, like earthenware.”

Sue Pariseau, of Lanesboro, calls her pottery “functional stoneware pottery.”


“I started by taking my first pottery class in 1999, and over the past 18 years I’ve taken numerous pottery classes and workshops to try different materials, techniques and firing methods to develop my pottery voice,” Pariseau said. “Currently, I work with a white stoneware and porcelain clay and fire with a bourry box wood kiln, which gives my work a toasty warm look that I find compelling.

“This firing method involves loading approximately 150 pieces in a large brick kiln and stoking wood in this kiln for 24 to 30 hours to reach a temperature of 2,350 degrees. As the flames travel through the kiln, they deposit wood ash on the pottery which melts and gives each piece a glow or sheen and uniqueness.

“It’s a great deal of work, because it involves putting new wood in the kiln several times an hour during the entire firing, but the results achieved from this type of firing are so different than many other firing methods, it’s worth the effort to me. Each piece is truly unique,” Pariseau said.

Useful things

Pariseau makes mugs, bowls, pendants and more.

“Most of my work does involve items meant to be used in our daily lives,” she said. “Mugs, tumblers, cups, bowls, plates, pouring vessels, vases, serving pieces and baking dishes. Priced from $6 to $100. Mugs and berry bowls are always my best-selling items, so I make lots of those each year.

“I make bowls of many sizes, baking dishes, plates, spoon rests, pitchers, bases, tea bag rests, holiday ornaments, pendants and so many other things,” Pariseau said. “I like the idea that pieces I’ve made can bring joy to the everyday occasions of the people using them.”

Pariseau has no previous background in this form of art — “just a creative spirit and a willingness to try and fail, but keep trying,” she said.

“I’ve made thousands of pieces and have very few in my own collection,” Pariseau said. “Ironically, most of what I keep has some flaw that I find endearing about the piece, but makes it something other people may not buy. Like the cobbler’s kids always having holes in their shoes. I have a large collection of functional pottery from other potter friends that I enjoy daily. Potters love to trade with each other, and as a result, I have a fun collection of work from other potters.”


Where to find her

Pariseau sells her work through her website, www.suepariseaupottery.com, throgh galleries and shops in the area, and at a few summer art festivals.

“But most of my work is sold through one of my two studio locations during open studio events, such as the Bluff Country Studio Art Tour in April and the Lanesboro Area Art Trail in August, September and October. Hosting events like this allows me to show people how my work is made and connect with visitors on a more personal level,” she said. “They get a chance to see my studio, the kiln and really gain a better understanding of how my work is created. It also allows me to show them my entire body of work, rather than the small portion of work I can take with to an art festival.”

On April 29, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Pariseau will host a kiln-opening party. “Visitors help me unload the kiln and we serve pizza from our wood-fired cob oven,” she said. “This is always a fun time, and visitors get first dibs on new work out of the kiln. And yes, I also hold occasional workshops to make and fire pottery.”

Inspiration can come from magazines and environment and, as Pariseau says, “I think inspiration comes from all around us. The textures of nature, fabrics, coffee cans of hardware and even the kitchen utensil drawer can all inspire a pottery piece. I think my work is made distinctive by my firing technique combined with colorful glazes and a penchant for stripes and dots. Workshop project ideas lots of times originate from discussions or things. For instance, I think my next workshop will be succulent pots, arising from my need to make some pots for my succulents.”