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Pleasantly Potting at Pleasant Hill Pottery

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The main house where Jesse and Lauren live at Pleasant Hill Pottery. Tom Rohr and Katherine Finnerty bought the property with the house on it in 2000. Jesse and Lauren moved in when they bought the property from Rohr and Finnerty in 2012 and have done many renovations since. (All of the work in this photo 1s Jesse Jones’ except for the pot between the chairs}.

 

By ELLA BROWN/reporter/The Herald

March 10, 2022

PLEASANT HILL, Ore.-

Jesse Jones knows how to make a good pot.

For 10-12 hours each week, Jones stands at his pottery wheel adjacent from a window overlooking the rolling, grassy slopes of Mt. Pisgah while he throws his one-of-a-kind, award-winning pieces.

Since 2012, Jones and his wife, Lauren, have resided at their scenic 10-acre farm in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, known as Pleasant Hill Pottery, with an array of cats, dogs, chickens, and five wood fired pottery kilns.

Jones bought the land from potter Tom Rohr and his wife Kathryn Finnerty, who founded Pleasant Hill Pottery in 2000. Jones studied with Rohr from 2005 until his death in 2009. Jones started working with Rohr as a member of the firing crew but fell in love with the property and the idea of running a full-service studio out of his home.

Jones remembers when he first came to Pleasant Hill Pottery for a workday back in 2005 with his friend James.

“I remember I drove in and saw the place. There were people around and everyone was so friendly and so nice,” said Jones. “There’s a lot of little things that did happen or didn’t happen, but I wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for James.”

Just shy of his 10th year of owning Pleasant Hill Pottery, Jones has spearheaded and helped to build 4 of the 5 kilns on the property, built a fully equipped metal/wood shop, a greenhouse (pictured below), a tiny house with a wood fired sauna, and a frisbee golf course.

The property also holds the main house where Jesse and Lauren live, two full-service pottery studios, an extensive garden, and dozens of piles of processed wood for the kiln firings.

Jones has also set up a resident artist program with the hopes of giving a place for fellow artists to learn, grow, and focus on their work.

“A big part of Pleasant Hill Pottery now is facilitating and coordinating opportunities for others,” said Jones.

Pleasant Hill Pottery’s current resident artist, Cooper Jeppesen, his partner Amy Gwartnew, and their dog, Rhady, have been residing at the farm since early 2020. “We are so grateful to Jesse and Lauren,” said Gwartnew. “We are coming out of this pandemic the most financially stable we have ever been. It’s such a huge thing to be providing to young artists.”

The resident artist lives in the tiny house on the property. In exchange for housing and studio space, the resident helps with chopping and processing wood, firing the kilns, mowing the lawn, gardening, and overall maintenance of the property.

The residents also have access to the kilns, one of the two pottery studios, and the wood fired sauna next to their tiny house.

Twice a year, Pleasant Hill Pottery hosts up to 20 local artists from the greater Eugene area for an art sale. Jones and the other artists sell their handmade pieces to the public and celebrate with live music, wood-fired pizza, tours, and lots of fun.

Jones describes the biannual sales as a great way to celebrate their hard work, as well as a way for community members to get involved and support local artists.

“Jesse has built a very cool space to make his work and his understanding of the wood fire process produces some very interesting and unique pieces,” said customer and aspiring wood fire potter, Nick Perkocha, who shopped at Pleasant Hill Pottery’s annual winter sale in December 2021. “I will definitely be coming back for more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Left) Some freshly cleaned bowls and vases from the most recent filing at Pleasant Hill Pottery that was conducted at the beginning of 2022. (Right) A few of Jones’ favorite pieces that he keeps on a shelf in his studio. He calls this collection his. “inspiration wall,” and is constantly rotating pieces in and out as he works.

Jones has been working with clay for well over 20 years. He worked as a ceramics instructor at Oregon State University from 2000-2006 and with the Pleasant Hill Pottery firing crew from 2005, until he bought the property.

He said his interest and love for pottery grew in high school and took off during the many hours he spent in the OSU craft center as a student.

“I learned to work with my hands fixing go-karts, restoring cars and building tree forts. In high school, I took every industrial art offering available, from welding to woodshop to ceramics.”

Jones grew up in Corvallis, Oregon on a comparable sized property with his family. His family is very creative, so he grew up growing his own vegetables, spending a lot of time in nature, and working with his hands.

Jones enjoys living at Pleasant Hill Pottery because he can incorporate creativity and his love for clay into his everyday life as well as his knack for fixing, building, and maintaining land.

The Anagama kiln at Pleasant Hill Pottery was built in 2006-2007 by Tom Rohr and Jesse  Jones. While Jones said he doesn’t have a favorite kiln. he enjoys the comradery and experience of firing the Anagama because of how demanding the process is. Before Covid times. Jones recalls the Anagama firings to be full of life with lots of people. food. music. and laughter.

Jones also works as a Civil Engineer for the City of Springfield during the week, so he gets a well-rounded lifestyle with a creative outlet.

“It scratches all those itches,” said Jones. “The attraction [of clay] was the creative, utility side. I can make something that I eat off of.”

Since Jones tends to focus on functional tableware pieces, he tailors his firings to get the best natural designs by using kilns that he knows will be the most time effective. For tableware pieces and other useful objects, he usually fires either the wood-salt or wood-soda kiln.

“Many of my forms are thrown. I use a variety of stoneware clays and porcelains.”

Every month or so, Jones will wheel copious amounts of his pots from his studio down to a large under-cover area that houses four of the five wood kilns on the property, as well as much of the chopped wood storage.

“We average about 10 firings a year, burning 30-50 cords of wood scrap sourced from three local sawmills,” said Jones.

The firing process takes about 2-3 days and nights and the fire in the kiln must be stoked about every 5-7 minutes. Jones and Jeppesen agree that they enjoy the firings, but they are very exhausting.

While wood firing can be extremely rewarding and a beautiful experience, resident Cooper Jeppesen recalls that not everything always turns out the way he hopes. “Our recent reduction cooled firing had a lot of losses, but the ones that survived are really special.”

After years of building and making restorative improvements at Pleasant Hill Pottery, Jones feels like he is finally in a good place. He can now focus on working to bring the pottery firing experience back to where it was before Covid, so he can continue to provide access to a very special community for young and aspiring artists.

“I am inspired to wood fire not just for the results, but for the community – it is immensely rewarding to work with a dedicated group of artists with a common goal.”

Jomes’ studio. His “inspiration wall,” (left) is filled with plants. his favorite pieces of work, and photo collages.

 

Ella Brown is a Junior at the University of Oregon majoring in Journalism and minoring in Political Science. Ella grew up in Portland, Oregon and hopes to be a culture and arts writer/reporter after she graduates college.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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