20 Oct Exhibitor Spotlight – Wilberton Pottery
Bob and Iris Jewett, owners of Wilberton Pottery, have been a fixture at the garden show since 1995. Their creations of fine tiles have graced many homes and gardens and – full disclosure – I have two tiles decorating the new outdoor cook top structure my husband and I built three years ago, and a group of four floral tiles in the master bedroom.
Bob originally studied for his doctorate in Chinese history and then started a business designing printed circuit boards. Iris was a registered nurse and then worked with Bob in his business. But at age 45 Bob’s artistic muse was calling him, and he needed a way to express his creative talents in drawing and carving.
In 1986 Bob started studying pottery at Bellevue Community College at night, but found he really didn’t like throwing pots on a pottery wheel. He needed something similar, but different. He started working with slabs of clay, and originally made all-weather garden containers. Because Bob is a consummate plant collector, he had a desperate need for garden containers that could withstand freezing weather, so he set out to create them. Thus began Wilburton Pottery, named for the area where Bob and Iris live in Bellevue. Iris and daughters Laura and Leonora joined him in the business.
Bob finds his inspiration in nature, especially from the woods on Wilburton Hill Park. He peruses his large collection of art books, and he and Iris love to visit the Asian art museum library. Customers also ask for special designs and custom work. Right now Bob is designing a large mountain and lake scene for one customer.
This isn’t a nine-to-five endeavor. It takes countless hours to come up with a design that will work well in a tile or series of tiles. Many designs are never offered for sale because they don’t meet Bob’s high level of standards.
There are many steps to each finished piece of Wilburton Pottery. After the design drawing is finalized, the mold has to be carved. Some tiles use up to eight molds at a time. The porcelain clay is then hand-pressed into the mold, dried for several days and then loaded into a kiln for a bisque firing. Then the tiles are glazed in black and fired again. The colored hand-painted tiles are painted before the first firing. They use only safe, non-poisonous glazes when painting the tiles.
Wilburton Pottery tiles can withstand the test of time and withstand any Northwest weather for decades. They look beautiful both inside the home and in the garden, and many customers request custom tiles to line a shower stall, incorporate into fireplaces or serve as a backsplash over a stove.
In December, 2008 a Wilburton Pottery woodland scene was awarded the ‘Tile of the Month’ award from the Tile Heritage Foundation. Designs range from delightful insects, frogs, birds, flowers and trees, to serene nudes and portraits. Visit Bob and Iris at the Wilburton Pottery booth #1414 or check out their website at http://nwf.gs/cXDHd5– Photos by Wilburton Pottery. – Janet