Let’s Talk SHOP: Joseph Pelka

Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director

Artist Joseph Pelka. Courtesy of the artist.

This week we are excited to talk shop with local artist Joseph Pelka – ceramicist extraordinaire! Joseph has a keen eye for design, and is a master craftsman in his chosen medium. When you see his work, you will quickly notice his distinctive aesthetic, particularly his perfection of the fine detailing. In this post, we are thrilled to bring Joseph’s experience, skill set, and resulting artwork to center stage.


“The inspiration behind my work stems from the desire to take something from the earth and create vessels that will be valued from generation to generation. The infinite variety of forms and designs that can be achieved with clay is why I choose to work with this medium. I have always appreciated and been fascinated with nature and incorporate it into many of my designs.

To create my pieces, I use hand-building and wheel-thrown techniques, both separately and in combinations. Quality craftsmanship is of vital concern with each vessel. Each piece is hand-crafted individually, and no pieces are ever slipcast [a technique used for shapes not easily made on a wheel, where a liquid clay body slip is poured into a plaster mould to form a cast using the inside of the mould]. I’ve chosen to work with an earthenware clay body that I fire to cone 06, 1818 degrees. Once constructed, careful attention is paid to the decoration process. The majority of my vessels are meticulously decorated on the exterior with brushed-on, layered ceramic glazes. A colored glaze is then poured into the interior to complete the piece. My designs are original. I am the designer, the builder, and the decorator.

Working with clay has been a part of my life for 30 years. My relationship with clay is dynamic, providing endless rewards as well as many challenges. This medium, with its ability to adapt to a wide variety of forms, creates a work environment of inspiration and surprise.”


To achieve his high-quality standards, Pelka has a step-by-step process:

First, Joseph places a ball of clay on the wheel and proceeds to center it.

Once centered, Joseph will open up the ball of clay to create a cylinder.

He then shapes the cylinder using centripetal force with applied pressure from both hands to establish a shape.

Next, Joseph will trim the piece to finalize the shape.

He then applies hand-built features using the score and slip method – roughing up the surface of both the piece and the hand-built feature and using slip (liquefied clay) to bond the feature to the piece.

The piece is then bique fired to cone 04, 1945 degrees. Brushed-on glazes are applied afterwards in multiple coats/layers. Finally, a glaze fire of the piece to cone 06, 1818 degrees is done to complete the process.

Take a look at one of Joseph’s newest completed creations displayed in the Paradigm Gallery!

Ceramic Vessel, $475

To see the featured vessel or more of Joseph Pelka’s work, come visit us at the Paradigm Gallery. Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm.

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