Christmas Show underway at potter’s Manteca studio
By MONICA CANE
209 Bulletin correspondent
It is only 2 p.m. and Randy Pearsall has already hand-formed a hundred new pieces of pottery for his upcoming Christmas art show. Throwing clay on a pottery wheel and forming beautiful stoneware has been a part of his daily routine for the past 36 years.
It all started when Randy was in college studying chemistry. He was working as a chemical technician for the school and got involved with the art department restocking glaze and materials. One day he picked up a few clay scraps and gave ceramics a try. In no time at all he taught himself how to make pottery and was hooked.
“After I graduated college I decided I wanted to try and be a potter for a while, now 36-years later here we are,” he said.
.Working out of his studio, Pearsall Stoneware which is located on his property in rural Manteca, Randy creates a good 250 new pieces of pottery each week which he sells primarily at art shows in Nevada, Arizona and all over Northern California throughout the year.
Creating a variety of items such as dishes, bowls, mugs, vases, serving platters and more for his shows as well as for his studio keeps the pottery wheel turning and the kiln burning almost daily. Although he is a one-man shop, Randy does have a little help from his mom who visits the studio every Thursday to help sand down pieces while visiting with her very creative son.
Having participated in many of the same art shows over the years Randy has developed a number of faithful customers who eagerly look forward to the art shows in order to purchase one the many new items the Manteca potter has made.
“If people like a pattern I’ve done they will come back for another piece the following year so they can add on to their collection.”
One pattern favorite among Randy’s customers is a silver leaf maple pattern which Randy creates by using real maple leaves taken from a tree in his yard. Picking the maple leaves in the spring, Randy puts them in a homemade concoction that preserves them and also allows them to burn at a high temperature later on. When it is time to throw clay for a particular maple leaf pattern, Randy puts one of the silver maple leafs on top of the piece and one on the bottom then spreads a thin layer of clay on top of the leaf in order to hold it in place.
“I bisque it [in a kiln] and right at 1100 degrees, the heat blows the thin layer of clay right off so that an impression of the leaf is left. Then I pour glaze right on top of the impression which comes out really nice,” shared the potter.
The glaze blends into beautiful hues of blues, greens and browns causing the silver maple leaf pattern to stand out in stunning fashion.
Creating any and all ceramic items brings tremendous joy to Randy but it is when he hand shapes plates, bowls and other cookware that people eat out of every day that brings him a real sense of personal satisfaction. “I feel a real connection knowing people eat out of something I made every day.”
During this time of year Randy hold a Christmas art show at his studio complete with Christmas trees, lights, decorations and delicious cookies, candies and other treats made by his wife Karen who Randy says gets just as many emails after an art show about her cookies as he does about his pottery.
During this annual Christmas show community members are able to get a glimpse into the life of a potter.
“It used to be at the turn of the century, a potter would have his own shop and make things for people to use in the kitchen all the time. There are not many of us now so it’s really fun for me to show people how I do it, what it’s like to be a full time potter.”
One of the many benefits to Randy’s job is having the opportunity to connect with other creative types such as woodcarver, Kent Holmgren. Holmgren, better known as a chainsaw artist, has been creating landscapes, totem poles, animal sculptures and a variety of tree carvings for about the same length of time as his potter pal Randy.
Having participated in many of the same art shows over the years, the two have become great friends as they both share a passion for crafting masterpieces to share with others.
Holmgren will be taking time off from his present work of carving a large, whimsical play house where bears are looking through the windows in order to participate in Randy’s Christmas art show where he will be demonstrating his wood carving skills this weekend.
Almost four decades later and Randy admits that hand making stoneware for people to enjoy, attending hundreds of art shows, making long-times friends with customers and other artistic souls, makes being a potter a really great job.