Janell Petzko

Clayworks design and production

Janell's journey with clay began years ago at a small community college in Michigan. Her initial work focused on traditional pottery-making techniques using her potter's wheel. Over the years, she has incorporated a variety of handbuilding and sculpting approaches to realize her vision of clayworks as representations of Nature. While hiking in the woodlands of eastern Pennsylvania, Janell began to think about ways to incorporate the complex textures she was observing in large-leafed foliage into her clayworks. She began experimenting by placing large leaves directly onto clay slabs and using a variety of techniques to impress the texture of the leaves into the clay. During firing, the organic leaf material is burnt off, leaving a textured claywork representing the original leaf including the smallest veins and ripples.

Initially, leaf clayworks were finished using traditional glazing techniques. However,these pieces failed to capture Nature's complexity of fall colors. She began experimenting with sawdust firing which adds random patterns and fall-like colors to leaf and other clayworks. Using this technique, Janell surrounds pieces with sawdust shavings in a bin and sets the sawdust on fire. The low temperature of this process deposits carbon onto the surface of each piece producing random patterns of black and gray. Additional material may be added to the sawdust, such as copper carbonate and rock salt, to create vibrant contrasting colors.

Janell continues to work with traditional pottery techniques and glazing, but is focusing more on capturing Nature's beauty in her work.