How I Got Where I Am


My interest in clay began in elementary school during clay time.  I used to build trucks having working doors and airplanes. A few years later I was exposed to clay again watching the Michale Casson series on throwing clay Produced by the BBC and broadcasted by a Canadian TV station that I could receive in the States. That series’s content stuck with me for a very long time.  Without ever throwing clay I was able to understand the principals of throwing he demonstrated as well to envision how clay would feel through my fingers.

Jim Sheffler handmade pottery bowlAfter that, I never took an opportunity to throw clay and became a Chemical Engineer. One day, after twenty-five years of working in the engineering field, a friend suggested I try a course in wheel throwing given at the local art center. It would be a good way to do something I was interested in and a diversion from work. I joined the local arts center and enrolled in a wheel class conveniently held on Saturdays.

For the next five years, I took this class becoming more and more proficient finding my hunger for increasing knowledge becoming greater. I decided to take various types of classes, offered at the art center, so mimic going to an art school.

During a significant downsizing in Engineering Support in the pharmaceutical company I worked for, I took an opportunity to stop working and become dedicated to learning pottery on a full-time basis. I stayed at the art center and progressed to a resident-type level of pottery provided by a very limited program at the art center.  In this position, I could focus on individual study where I developed skills in wheel throwing and hand building and began to express my voice in wheel-thrown ceramics. During this time I became a Kiln Tech and soon after was juried into the local potter’s guild.

Today I am the Director of Ceramics Department, at the same art center, teach classes in addition to remaining a guild member.


My Approach to Ceramics


My preference is in functional pots.  I enjoy making pots that are used daily by people at the same time the user enjoys the lookJim Sheffler handmade pottery functional casseroles and feel of the pot.  Since I was an engineer I, symmetry and balance are my basic approach.  Now I’m adding more alterations to my work and am less concerned with symmetry.  This approach will is evolving into a more artistic style while maintaining functionality.

I also enjoying adding humor to my work by adding small attributes in connecting handles and other attachments that resemble metal or wood work connections.

Clay Bodies


I do not make my own clay bodies due to logistical reasons.  My preferences are for clays having a lot of grog, even sculptural clay bodies.  I like the unique surface texture of a groged clay after it is cut with a sharp edge.  This surface is preserved through glaze firing giving rustic effects.


Glazes & Firing


Jim Sheffler handmade pottery stacked mugsMy color pallet is centered around earth tones and colors of the southwest.  However, to please a wide base of customers I also use more traditional colors.  I have developed a number of ash glasses and some earth tone colors.

My firing preferences are cone 10 reduction, and wood/salt/soda firing.  These firing environments give my pots glaze mixing and movement as well as the unique surface texture of wood and salt/soda.

As a chemical engineer,  I develop formulas and glaze fixes based on chemical principals.  Reducing glaze recipes to molecular unity formulas (Seger Formulas) in order to improve the glaze by eliminating bubbles and pin holes, crazing, and denting.  I enjoy using computerized methods for glaze development and improvements.  It can also be used to Catalog my work.