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VCPG Newsletter

August 2023
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VCPG August 2023 Newsletter

Members' Meeting :

To be announced later

For Your Calendar:​

August 1st……...…....Jury Application Deadline

To participate in the Pre-Jury Workshop, you must submit your jury application by this date.

For more information, see the Jury page, under the Member menu.

August 3rd……...…....Board Meeting @ 3:00pm

August 19-20th................Pick up work at the conclusion of the BW show.

(The Center is only open Friday - Sunday.)

August 28th…..….…..Members Meeting on Zoom; 6:30 Gathering, 7 PM Meeting

September 7th…….....Board Meeting @ 3:00pm

September 25th ....…..Members Meeting on Zoom; 6:30 Gathering, 7 PM Meeting

October 5th……...…....Board Meeting @ 3:00pm

President’s Musings • August 2023

More Fragments… Stuff I think about…_

…some of our ceramic mythology. Misunderstandings about how our ceramic world actually works. 

The problem with “Compression” : bottom, rims, etc. 

Let’s start with burnishing. 

What’s happening when a pot is burnished?

Clay platelets are very, very small. Less than 2 microns in diameter, (or 5 microns depending on the source document). That’s 2 (or 5) millionths of a meter. The thickness (an odd word to use here) can be dozens of times less.

So, let’s take a pot — handbuilt or thrown — stiff leather hard or dry — and burnish the surface. What’s happening? Why does the surface get shiny? Why are the pots stronger and less porous?

Let’s imagine the clay particles on the surface of the clay. The platelets are arranged in random angles in relation to the surface.

Clay Platelets

Sand on left - Electron Microscope image of clay platelets on right

As I rub the surface with any hard, smooth object, the friction is moving the platelets. It’s hitting the edges of platelets that are not parallel with the surface and rotating them so that more and more of them are parallel with the surface. Most probably with the platelets overlapping having been caused to slide on their neighbors and rearrange themselves into a thin layer with their flat surfaces facing outwards.

This thin layer of platelets now “reflects” the light which shows up as shiny. They initial surface “refracted” the light which shows as as matt.

Why is terra sigillata so easy to burnish? We float the clay particles 1-3 times to gather the smallest particles in the clay. These more consistently sized, tiniest platelets are easier to rotate/slide into a light reflecting layer.

Why does a double or triple burnish increase the shininess? A higher percentage of particles have lined up to reflect light.

Why are burnished pots stronger? The platelets are arranged in an overlapping, aligned layer rather that a random arrangement.

Why are burnished pots less porous? There is less open space between the platelets after they are rearranged with their flat surfaces parallel with the pot’s surface.  

Now to Compression.

We talk about Compressing the bottom — compressing the rim. I don’t think that’s what’s happening.

Think about what it means to compress something. Let’s say a sponge. At the end of being compressed it takes up less space. How about something not so obvious, say putting compression on a wound. Here too, the thing being compressed, the blood vessels are taking up less space to stem the blood flow out of an opening. Something that’s been compressed is smaller than it was before the compression.      

Oxford Dictionary: the reduction in volume (caused by an increase in pressure) 


So, when I “compress” the bottom of the pot what am I actually doing? I’m not reducing the volume of the clay. Not squeezing out water. Not forcing the clay platelets to be closer together. What is happening in my thought experiment is that I’m doing a low level burnishing of the surface of the clay which makes it smoother and stronger.

A recent experience using a heat gun to dry pots during demonstrations reinforced my thought experiment. I was drying lowish 1.5# bowls to demonstrate how I tool a foot ring. The pot on a bat is on a small banding wheel. With the heat gun on high I can hold it less than 1/2 inch from the pot while slowly rotating the banding wheel. Both sides of the wall and the inside of the bottom are heated until no longer tacky without any visible distress. I recut the bowl from the bat, turn it over to dry the still tacky bottom. As I heat it multiple small cracks appear. Yet allowing this pot to air dry naturally would produce no cracks with a flat bottom or tooled bottom. 

What happened? Two things. First, the act of cutting the pot from the bat causes some non-visible stresses/stretches in the clay, but the wetness does keep all the platelets adhered. Second, the fast drying separates the stressed areas. On the next bowl I use a rubber rib to smooth — I can see it’s actually been burnished a bit by the smoothness and sheen of the surface — the bottom before heating. No cracks! The heat gun is pointed directly at the bottom less than 1/2 inch away. The clay steams a bit and in less than a minute it’s not sticky and ready to tool.

Burnishing… not compressing. So I avoid the compressing language and instead say smoothing the bottom and rounding the rim.

Some interesting clay articles I read while writing this to check on my internal data. And learned a LOT about our favorite dirt. I did have to lookup many scientific words as I read…


Environmental Characteristics of Clays and Clay Mineral Deposits, US Geological Survey:

This URL is not working. I've appended the page text to the end of the August President's Musings Blog Post.

Basics of Clay Minerals and Their Characteristic Properties: Here

Low-dimensional physics of clay particle size distribution and layer ordering: Here

This month’s ontological question:

“Where are you located?”

“Here” is not the correct answer. Here is a concept.

Experientially,. Sensorially. Where are you located?

Happy Potting,

Wyn Matthews, VCPG President

50+ year potter


August Program

34th Parallel Collective may not be able to join us at our August meeting. Hopefully, we will be able to schedule something with them in the future.

For now, we ask that you be flexible. Still join in at 6:30 to chat or at 7 PM for our meeting. There will be content that is useful for both your clay practice and for our Guild moving forward. The reminder announcement emailed/posted on August 28th will provide specific information on the program.

Thank you for your understanding.

You can always find the link for the meeting on the Guild Calendar at

VCPG is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: VCPG Monthly Member Meetings

Time: Aug 28, 2023 06:30 PM (PDT) Gathering Time, 7 PM Meeting

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 880 2758 8377

Passcode: 893843

One tap mobile

+16699006833,,88027588377#,,,,*893843# US (San Jose)

+16694449171,,88027588377#,,,,*893843# US

Find your local number:

September Board Meeting Link • 9/7/23 @3:00

All Guild members are invited to attend the monthly VCPG Board of Directors Meetings. 

Please contact Secretary on the Contact Us page if you would like to receive the Agenda Packet in advance of the Board of Directors Meeting.


Topic: VCPG May Board of Directors Meeting

Time: September 7th, 2023 03:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 880 6793 7721

Passcode: 558245

Find your local number:

Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts

Reminder to those with pieces in the Beatrice Wood show.

End of show pick up dates are August 19-20. Between 11am-4pm.

Thanks to all that participated. 

Marvelous Mug Show Sales Opportunity

September 9th and 10th is The Marvelous Mug Sale outside the Ventura Pottery Gallery.

It has been a very successful event in the past. So if you are a juried plus member you are eligible to participate.

Please email Jody Cooper at or call her at 805 701-7797 with any questions.

Team Service Update

SHOUT OUT a huge thanks to ALL guild members who have stepped up during the year to offer some service back to the Guild. Without your time and expertise we would not be managing the ordering of tons of clay three times a year, transitioning our Guild’s accounting to Quickbooks (Tens of thousands of dollars pass through the Guild’s accounting books each year when one considers Pottery Markets and Gallery sales and expenses!), all the hands that made the Ojai Pottery Market a success (Service sign-ups are now open for the Ventura Pottery Market!), producing and distributing the brilliant marketing and social media materials that promote all aspects of our Guild, delivering on the vision for a forward looking and inclusive ceramic arts community, reaching the world with a revamped and informative web presence, and ever so much more!

Thank you all.

As a reminder, all Plus tier members have made a commitment to provide a service back to the Guild in 2023. If you still need to “check this box off” there are many opportunities to complete your Team Service at the 2nd Annual Ventura Pottery Market, Main Street Ventura, October 21 st through the 22nd . 

Opportunities including; helping with the planning, setting up garden signs, marking the booth areas the night before, helping vendors drive to their booths to unload and break down, help with the cashier’s booth including set-up, breakdown and cashiering. 

For more information and to sign up, log on to the Guild web home Guild  Team Service Sign-up Ventura Pottery Market (second page at the second from the bottom of the listings).

Additionally, we need a team to assist with organizing the Holiday Potluck part of the December Clay Challenge. This holiday event will take place in early December, date to be determined. For more information and to sign up, log on to the Guild web home Guild  Team Service Sign-up  Holiday Potluck//Clay Challenge (second page at the bottom of the listings).

These two events are the last “two date specific” opportunities to complete a team service commitment for 2023. If, after reviewing the opportunities above, you cannot match yourself with a service opportunity, please send an email to and we will try and assist you with making a match.

Plus tier members, please remember that it is your responsibility to fulfill this commitment.

Bowl of Thanks October 21 &22

2nd Annual Ventura Pottery Market and Bowl of Thanks

All juried members are invited to participate in the 2nd Annual Ventura Pottery Market October 21st – 22nd on Main Street in downtown Ventura. Last year’s inaugural event was great fun and very successful.

The guidelines for participation will be similar to this year’s Ojai Sale.

Look for details and registration on starting September 1st.

Registration will close September 25th .

Our Bowl of Thanks event will be held during the Ventura Pottery Market. Both events are co-sponsored by The Downtown Ventura Partners.

The Downtown Ventura Partners support the Guild by helping to organize our event and paying for city fees, security and marketing for the event. Proceeds from Bowl of Thanks will benefit the Downtown Ventura Partners’ Family Reconnection Charity. Their mission is to provide free transportation to eligible individuals who, for whatever reason, end up vulnerable on Ventura’s streets and are seeking a way to reconnect with a family member or support group. This could include transportation to an immediate family member, a relative, a rehabilitation facility or assisted living center, among others.

All Guild members are encouraged to donate bowls for the event. We would

appreciate it if juried members participating in the Pottery Market donate 5-10 bowls. It’s not a requirement but a request. Maybe take this opportunity to have fun and try something new to donate and for the market!!! Look for details on when and where to drop off bowls soon.

The VCPG Library

Is finding a good summer read on your ‘to do’ list?

There’s still time to check out VCPG's professional library. Our collection currently contains 42 DVDs and over 140 books. There is something for everyone, so please take advantage of this amazing resource!

Browse the collection by visiting the Library page under the Member Menu on Click on Check Out Item to complete the check out request form. Items will be shipped at no cost to you. You can return items via mail (at your cost) or to the gallery.

VCPG Library Book Review

Colouring Clay by Jo Connell offers valuable insight into a variety of methods for coloring clay.

Connell begins by introducing readers to the basics of coloring clay, including directions on how to prepare colored clays, and suggestions for glazing and firing them. The author’s clear explanations, wealth of useful tips, and detailed photographs will make it easy for readers to follow along.

Connell presents examples of artists’ work from around the world to illustrate various

techniques for using colored clay in designing ceramic artwork. Descriptions of agateware, neriage, nerikomi, millefiori, slipcasting, and sprigging, to name just a few, reveal the versatilityof colored clay. Readers will find themselves energized by the author’s enthusiasm for coloring

clay, and may even be inspired to incorporate colored clays in their next creative project.

Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts 

Reminder to those with pieces in the Beatrice Wood show.

End of show pick up dates are August 19-20 between 11am-4pm.

Thanks to all that participated. 

October 9h

For Sale

Tent; 10X10, perfect condition, alum. Frame

4 zippered sides with wheled storing and carrying case.


Victoria Littlejohn, 805/448/1869.

Also, assorted tools; 3 , 3 shelf rolling carts.

2 small 2' X 3' work tables with 1 drawer ea.

2 ,4 shelf free standing, 1 folding director chair

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