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Love & Ceramics

Article by Samantha Schoengold Beranbom

Photography by Dariusz Terepka Photography

Originally published in Fairfield Lifestyle

Jean Elton Studio is a collaboration between the husband and wife team of Lois Jean and William Elton Barker. While stationed in a rural part of the Southwest during Bill's time in the US Army, the young couple encountered a local craft center. There, they started to learn about ceramics, soon becoming fascinated. Lois was especially taken with the medium. "Bill would join me on weekends, but I worked there constantly. I couldn't get enough!" It was then that Bill built their very first potters wheel to use in their small apartment when the center was closed. After a transfer to Germany, the couple's education expanded, discovering the works of Wilhelm and Elly Kuch, whom they still credit with teaching and influencing them throughout their career. During their time there, Bill secured their first gas kiln, having it shipped from the US. The opening of the kiln became an event with their small community of friends. Lois and Bill soon began selling works at local art shows and craft fairs and solidifying the artistic pursuit of Jean Elton.

Jean Elton has grown to showcase at large wholesale trade shows focusing on online sales. In their current Fairfield studio, they try to express uncomplicated beauty in their work, creating contemporary objects that are a diversion from the world's difficulties. "We are not interested in social commentary, in fact, we like to think of our work as a welcome distraction from it," Lois points out. 

"We're inspired by the idea that creating beautiful objects isn't just a way to make money or a means for deep personal expression, but rather, it is the joyful participation in one of the very pursuits for which humanity was created." She draws inspiration from architecture, especially the geometric patterns of Frank Lloyd Wright. Design ideas can also come from simple, ordinary, everyday things. A fallen palm tree branch found on a stroll down a street in Naples, Florida, led to the creation of the Palm Vessel collection, whose exterior surface is a replica of the palm leaf's texture. Lois and Bill work together using various machines and tools, along with their clay and glazes, to create their handcrafted vessels. It is a process they describe as moving from engineering to craft to art - finishing their pieces with their distinct surface treatments. 

Lois and Bill understand the struggles young artists face, like finding supplies, storage and materials, to name a few. Lois explains, "The solutions for these challenges are best found in the context of a group or the studio of an accomplished artist." This has led them to host the Round Hill Pottery Collective. Up-and-coming artists are welcome to work in the studio and share pottery equipment, glazes, expertise, inspiration and encouragement. 

And although Bill typically handles the business side, and Lois' attention is on the artistic side, they often check in with each other when issues arise. "Bill always consults with me when we have business challenges and he comes up with some pretty good design ideas from time to time." Lois lovingly reveals. A true partnership, this husband and wife team collaborate on art, business and life.

jeaneltonstudio.com

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