Visiting The Masters Of Philippine Pottery: “The Spinning Wheel!” (Part 4 of 8)

A Pottery Field Trip is not complete without seeing a Potter throwing his clay. Jon centers a five- kilo clay between his hands. The clay gets centered so quickly. He applies the right amount of strength on the different parts of his hands. He pushes the clay gently. He releases the pressure when he needs to. The earthy material follows every control Jon gives it. You know when a Potter has mastered control over the clay, when vessels are starting to form effortlessly right before you very eyes. Jon handles his clay with so much skill, grace, comfort, and peace.

He forms his clay like magic. Having our eyes looking directly to his hands and the pots he forms, we fall in love with making pottery even more. We want it, we think about it, we crave for it

The hands of a Potter must be free from any kind of tension or stress to be able to create pots. After firing the Anagama kiln for almost three days, and have not gotten enough rest from all the hard work, Jon has proven that his skill is not determined by his strength nor weakness. His skill is a part of him. It is like having an additional function in his physical body. This is how close pottery making is to this man.

 Jon chokes the neck of the pot. Choking the clay is needed to form narrow necks and rims.

He brings out the biggest wooden rib I have ever seen. He presses it gently onto his centered bowl. He starts applying pressure from the center of the bowl moving upward to the rim.

Jon continues to make more pots for us. He lifts the wall up of this cylinder like there is no wet clay spinning between his hands. Watching him play with clay is not only fun but very relaxing too!

Jon wires off from the bat, the last piece, he created for us.

The more I watch how Jon throws his clay, I realize that I have not seen other Potters, handle their clay the way Jon does. It’s not because he has been doing it for decades now, a part of it plays a big role, sure. I pay attention to how he moves around his pottery studio, how he carries each pot, how he hits on his chair, how he manipulates the speed of the wheel, and how he shapes each piece between his hands. All his actions say, “This is my life. I have followed my passion. I have succeeded, but I have failed too. I have gone through a lot of troubleshooting, and I continue to learn from them. This is my life. It has always been and it will always be. I share this life with my wife, who also forms clay between her hands. We work together. We work individually. Our masterpieces are never the same, but we never forget that our lives keep moving forward, because we share the same passion for working with clay.”

After the pottery demo, my students and I can’t wait to form our own pieces with Hand Building or Wheel Throwing. Watching Jon educates us even more to create better bots. I am expecting to see more tea pots made at Clay Ave very soon, students! This goes for me too : )

Visiting The Masters Of Philippine Pottery: “Studio Tour” (Part 3 of 8)


The showroom or gallery is the space that shows the final output from all the hard work potters go through. It is a space that is mostly visited by friends, guests, or collectors. The process of creating pottery is mostly neglected. But to the curious ones, they want to see how everything is made. What tools are used? What equipment can bring life to a lump of clay? How much water is needed to keep the clay moist? How long does the Potter store clay before it is used? How much stress can raw clay handle? How gentle are the Potter’s hands when he forms his clay?

Join this trip as you see the photos from our recent trip to the Pettyjohn’s home in Pansol, Laguna.

Everyone seemed to be all perked up after having their coffee at the guest house. We all knew that we were about to see a much bigger pottery studio, carrying the craftsmanship by  two of our country’s pride in Ceramics.

Ulap has been friendly to everyone. He assists us as we walk around his Masters’ playground. (Photo by Victor Guerrero)

The students touch whatever they set their eyes on. Kylee observes this teapot quietly. Jon eventually showed us how he made it with the potter’s wheel.

Jon showed us some pots that came from the recent Anagama firing. There were some accidents from the firing, like a whole shelf collapsing with big pots on them. A problem caused by melting old kiln posts. What a good trait to learn from a Master in Ceramics: Admitting one’s fault to prevent the same problem from reoccurring in the future.

We continue to touch whatever we see on the table or around the workshop area. (Photo by Victor Guerrero)

After satisfying our craving for handmade pottery, by feeling the surface of every pot we see, Jon shows us his favorite toy. His potter’s wheel.

This pottery field trip will not be complete without seeing the potter’s wheel spinning for us. As soon as Jon sat on his chair, we came closer to him and brought all our cameras out! “What are you making, Jon?” I asked. “I don’t know. We’ll see.” He was right, all we did was to look at how he caresses his clay between his hands.

He forms his pots like magic.

To be continued…