Arts profile

Paul Voelckers

Posted: Thursday, February 03, 2000

Family studio: Paul Voelckers and his family throw and build pots at Alaska Blue Clay Studios. He, his sons James and Matt and his wife Mary Pat Wyatt all use the studio, which is underneath their Douglas home. They have a gas kiln behind the house.

Background: Voelckers grew up in rural Washington state. He said he was serious about pottery in high school and college, then gave it up to pursue a career and start a family. A few years ago he rediscovered his interest and introduced his sons to the craft.

Voelckers met Wyatt, now the curator at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, in the late 1970s.

``I had a short career as a potter before going back to school to study architecture,'' Voelckers said. ``I met her when I first came to town and was teaching pottery at the Zach Gordon Teen Center.''

Day job: Voelckers is an architect with Minch-Ritter-Voelckers Architects in Juneau.

``There's something very rewarding about making a pot - unlike buildings, which can sometimes be a paper exercise- a pot is something you can control from first thought to final execution. And it's finished,'' he said.

James is a junior and Matt a freshman at Juneau-Douglas High School. For the past several years the Voelckers have shared a booth at the Alaska Juneau Public Market with another potter, but the studio is not a formal business. Voelckers said they hope to have a few more shows this year.

Elegant bowls and tiles: Voelckers said potters have to work hard to earn a living, and he's able to be more self-indulgent with his pottery because he doesn't need his work to be commercial.

``I'm trying to do larger, more special pieces, presentation bowls and platters,'' he said. ``Matt is really into these elegant bowls. James is doing a lot of experimenting with tile and mosaic,''

Good glaze:Voelckers said the studio is named for the blue clay that underlies the Juneau area, a glacial marine sediment. Years ago, a local potter tried throwing pots with the clay. It proved to be too grainy, with a low melting point, and not well-suited to pottery. Voelckers found that with some sifting, it makes a fine glaze for pots instead.

He said a few years ago, James studied the blue clay as a science fair project and tested it at a wide range of temperatures. He found it looks best when fired at about 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

``It's real rich creamy brown with black flecks,'' his father said.

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