Issue Archives
Calculated Surprise
Seattle-based potter John Page’s first love is painting, but he was attracted to clay because the people working with it are more fun. “In college, the painters were loners, and very serious,” he says.

Armed with painting, drawing and ceramics training from East Carolina School of Arts in North Carolina and Virginia Commonwealth University, John switched coasts and settled in Seattle. For 30 years, he has indulged his painting urges by adorning his three-dimensional art.

His stylish platters, bowls and vases catch the fancy of notables like Dale Chihuly, Robin Williams, Daryl Hannah, Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. Now he’s applying his designs and painter’s eye to two dimensions. His new works—watery, atmospheric landscapes similar to his abstract pottery designs—are panels of clay, fashioned into framed diptychs and triptychs.

“Opening the kiln and seeing the final product is one of my favorite parts of the job,” he says. “It’s a calculated surprise.”

His biggest challenge is maintaining consistency in quality and design. Every piece he makes is one of a kind, but must still meet his rigorous standards and his customers’ expectations. Years of experience makes it easier—when completing an order for 185 platters for Seattle’s PONCHO arts fundraiser, he only had to remake five pieces.

Every few years John transforms his designs, often as a reflection of his travels. His four-week trip to Turkey led to pottery patterns based on tribal rug designs and sketches he made from frescoes in medieval churches. He soaked up ideas from France and Italy, and looks forward to spending time in Spain this spring.

“It takes me four to six weeks to shake off the U.S., and acquire a sensibility of the culture and lifestyle in a new place,” he says.

Though his success in pottery is satisfying, John feels his clay paintings reflect “more of the true me. They’re more expressive of how I feel about color and design coming together.” He’s noticed that people tend to appreciate the time and energy that goes into making a painting, whereas a functional piece may not get the same respect. “My new work incorporates aspects of art and craft,” John says. “But people really understand art that hangs on the wall.”

About 30 galleries represent his work, and John sells directly from his studio, by appointment. He’s a one-man band, creating, producing his work, and marketing and shipping the pieces himself. “I used to have five employees,” he says. “But I’m a control freak, and working alone gives me a lot of freedom.”

John can be contacted at John Page Pottery, 206-355-8992, and is available by appointment only.