From Page 1 of The River Record January 19, 2001:
By NICOLE VIGER, Record staff
BELLOWS FALLS - Entering Eleanora Eden's home tucked high on a hill on a snowy afternoon, is like walking into a small slice of paradise.
The room looks like a lush garden, alive with bright yellow sunflowers, cool purple irises, ripe fruit and red hot peppers. No, this is not a greenhouse. Eden is a potter, and this is her studio.
Although Eden's pottery is functional, one of the few ways one can purchase it is at prestigious art shows across the country, in cities such as Miami, Denver and Ann Arbor, Mich., or on her Web site (www.eleanoraeden.com). She also has a studio in Bellows Falls with items available for sale.
Eden began working with her craft more than 30 years ago, when she took a pottery and a photography class at the University of California at Berkeley. The daughter of a silver and gold jewelry maker and craftsman, she was inspired to be artistic. "He was really good," Eden said of her father. Photography did not interest her as much as pottery did, she said, because the end product was not tangible enough to her to justify the hours spent in the darkroom. Instead, she graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in ceramics in 1969 and went straight to teaching it at the Putney Antioch Graduate School, now Antioch Graduate School in Keene, in 1971 and 1972. For the two years following that, she taught ceramics at the Whitingham School in Whitingham, Vermont. By 1981, she received her master of arts in ceramics at San Jose State University in California.
Eden's line includes just about everything needed to set the table, including plates, bowls, butter dishes, sugar and creamer and tea sets - plus a variety of decorative items like wall tiles and vases, and glass jewelry. Her variety of original patterns is just as diverse. Sunflowers, hot peppers, roses and fruit adorn her work as well as ones she calls "confetti," which is a pattern of different-colored dots.
Her most popular pattern, black checks, arose from necessity. In Eden's earlier work, she used pencil to outline her fruit designs, which eventually became too difficult and injured her wrist, not to mention if she made one tiny mistake her work was ruined. Instead, she experimented with her fruit against a black background, which was a lot easier on her wrist. Her funky, off-kilter black and white check pattern emerged. Now, she paints it on pottery with her fruit design for her signature look.
For her flower designs, Eden used to take out books from the library and use pictures as references. Because pictures in books limited her to a certain number of poses, she decided to hit the road and do a different kind of research - from life. In May, Eden began taking pictures around the region in different spots from her hometown to towns a half-hour's drive north, to capture the flowers in every possible pose.
Eden's method of throwing and firing pots is traditional, she said. After she paints parts of her design, she fires it twice and adds the final coat of paint and glaze followed by a third firing. In-between, she uses wax resist on her design, a substance that coats the different parts of the' design while it is in progress so she doesn't have to worry about ruining it when she adds to it. She eventually sponges it off.
Using plaster molds to make pottery is another area of Eden's expertise; in fact, she has been teaching workshops on how to make them for the past eight years in her studio to various groups and one-on-one. Last April, she flew to Fort Worth, Texas to teach a class. To many in the world of ceramics, work made from plaster molds has not earned as much respect as that fired in a kiln. They are both respectable methods, Eden said. "Just because it's made from a plaster mold doesn't mean its junk, and just because it was thrown on a potter's wheel doesn't mean it's good," she said.
While the process of wheelthrowing is widely understood, the process of plaster-casting remains a mystery to many people, Eden states on her Web site. A piece of pottery made from a plaster mold. is done by filling a thick, dry plaster mold with liquid clay, which has a larger amount of water in it compared to that in clay you throw on a wheel, which is called "slip." The plaster will start to absorb the liquid from the clay and a skin of solid clay will adhere to the plaster. This "skin" will thicken over time as more moisture is absorbed by the plaster. When the desired thickness is attained, the rest of the liquid clay is poured off and this skin of clay adhering to the plaster will dry and loosen itself from the plaster mold. When removed it retains every nuance of shape of the plaster. This is a slip-casting from a one-piece mold. Molds for complicated shapes can require more pieces that are put together to fit snugly to hold the liquid clay. There always has to be a place for the slip to get in and out, and there has to be at least a bit of reservoir for the ship.
Eden is currently putting an addition on her studio for teaching workshops and to have more room to expand her line of glass jewelry. Each pair of her earrings, which come in a wide variety of colors, is formed from four to five pieces of glass cut in matching pairs. She embeds the loop in the glass during the firing and the glass forms around and adjusts to it. Each pair is kept together during the entire process of two to four firings. She achieves different effects by the surfaces and colors she chooses and the temperature she uses. Eden uses layers of art glass and dichroic glass. The dichroic glass Eden said, developed over 104 years ago in Germany and used in industrial optics, were discovered by sculptors in the late 1960s and lave become popular with studio glass artists. The surface of it gives her earrings a metallic look.
Ellen works virtually nonstop, but the variety of tasks making pottery requires keeps her from burning out. "If I don't have much energy, I can do sedentary work, like sitting and painting or, if I have more energy, I can throw pots or go to art shows," she said.