Elise Willa Pincu Delfield is a studio potter and ceramics instructor in Bryson City, North Carolina. She received her B.A. In Liberal Arts with a concentration in Ceramic Arts from the University of Florida in 1996. From there Elise continued to develop her pottery at Eastern Kentucky University as the Resident Artist, a Spring Concentration student at Penland School of Arts and Crafts, Cleveland Institute of Arts Post-Baccalaureate student, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania as the Ceramic Department Studio Technician, and the University of Miami as the Resident Artist.
During her time as Studio Tech, the Pincu Pottery business was formed and Elise traveled to various outdoor retail art/craft shows where she took home numerous awards. In 2000, Elise took a brief hiatus from clay and began a 5-year career in Library Science, earning her MA degree. In 2006, after moving to the mountains of Western North Carolina, Pincu Pottery was born again.
Elise strives to make comfortable and beautiful pots for the home that enhance the pleasure of food and the nourishment of the soul. In a world that typically severs the connection of object (or food) and maker (or grower/cook), she finds it necessary to produce functional pottery that may help remind us of our earthly surroundings and our ability to create and enjoy the handmade/homegrown in our daily lives.
How did you get started as an artist?
I was at the University of Florida thinking about studying engineering when I found clay. I dropped a math class and with that extra time, decided to try throwing on the wheel – something I remember being fascinated by from watching a PBS show. I went to the basement of the student union and signed up. Once I touched clay and struggled at the wheel I knew that I was doing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. ‘Art’ came later when I began taking the Fine Arts Department clay classes, art history, drawing and the like. Since then I feel compelled to make pottery that is ‘artful’.
What are your biggest influences?
My college professor, Linda Arbuckle, is/was a big influence on me – her teaching style and her amazing, hand-painted Maiolica pottery. I love looking at historical ceramics for inspiration – currently my favorites are Goryeo Korean Celedons and Islamic tin-glazed wares.
What five words best describe your work?
Delightful, useful, colorful, floral & beautiful.
Tell us a bit about your technique.
Many of my pots start as a lump on the wheel. After I shape the pot I sometimes alter the wet clay into a flower shape. Some work I hand build from slabs of clay and some is a combination of thrown and slab. When the pots are dry I coat them in a white, liquid clay slip. After their first firing, I paint them with ceramic stains that are mixed with water, and a flux to help the colors melt into the glaze and sometimes drip a bit from the heat of the kiln. My process is similar to watercolor painting. Each pot is considered before painting so my designs vary on each piece. Once painted, the pots are dipped in my unique glaze and fired again in the kiln. The glaze varies in the kiln – it is always translucent, showing the painting underneath, but sometimes it glosses more than others, sometimes growing micro-crystals that look like sugar on the surface. I like the variety of that surface.
What is a typical workday like for you?
There is no typical day other than being at my studio by 10 AM unless I am teaching. I start a making cycle by rolling slabs and throwing forms on the wheel. When the slabs are ready, I cut them from templates and bend them into shape. Wheel-thrown pieces need time to dry, so I may work on handbuilding. When I have made enough to fill the kiln, I wax bottoms, lid seats and anyplace I want the red clay to show. Then I dip each piece in my white slip. This could take about 2 days. Then I load the kiln and prepare my studio for the glazing process, which could take a week. After the glazed ware is in the kiln, the cycle begins again. I try to be in my studio 6-8 hours every day except Sunday. Evenings and some mornings are for computer and paper work.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
I love the process of making and problem solving the forms and decoration. I really love experimenting and trying new forms and figuring out how to finish their surfaces; though I don’t give myself much time to do this because it can feel indulgent.