John Baymore

John Baymore -- Potter

John BaymorePeople have been making pottery since at least the days of the Neanderthals, perhaps humankind’s earliest technology. Firing the clay was the first use of heat to transform material, turning clay into ceramics.

“Clay is a special kind of dirt,” potter John Baymore said recently in a phone interview. “It’s called ‘pulverized planet.’ I call it part of Mother Earth.”

Baymore, an internationally acclaimed ceramicist – a bit more than just a potter – and his wife Mary moved to the Intervale section of town in 1977. They have a view, and the calm serenity, of the Souhegan River in the back yard. “It’s a beautiful spot.”

Growing up in Trenton, N.J., he did not set out to make pots, he said, although he had an interest in art in high school. "I went to college to learn something to make a living.” At the University of Massachusetts - Amherst he began as a major in marine zoology.

He had never worked with clay before he took an elective class his second year. “With an inspirational teacher, and by the end of the semester I changed my major to fine arts with a concentration in ceramics. I’d found a home and have never looked back.”

But perhaps, he said, it’s in his genes. One whole side of his family, whom he had not known about, was in the ceramics business in Trenton, New Jersey. “My mother mentioned it after I changed my major.”

Baymore tea bowlBaymore is internationally known for his interest in and work with kiln design and firing. “I’ve always been involved in kiln design. The science side of my head connects to the engineering. Kilns can be beautiful objects. One of the ones I have here is influenced by Japan.”

In 1995, he won a major award in pottery in Japan. “That event was a bigger deal than I realized at the time. It led to huge connections and opportunities. I just sent off to an exhibition in Turkey. Due to Covid, it’s virtual, so I won’t be actually going.” He has spent a lot of time in Japan, Korea and China and has works in museums there and in other parts of the world.

Although he still makes some pots and mugs, now those would be mostly for the Japanese tea ceremony. “Tea ceremonies dominate the production somewhat.”

Baymore vaseHe creates a mixture of items, he said. “I’m still vessel oriented – I’m not a sculptor. A lot is now one-off visual objects intended to be art objects rather than table ware. I do make that, too, and display pieces and art ware.”

Baymore was a professor at the N.H. Institute of Art in Manchester for 24 years, retiring in 2019. He has been a presenter in ceramics in symposiums in Japan, Ireland, England, and other places. He was the President of the Potters Council of the American Ceramics Society. He has presented at the International Academy of Ceramics and been a guest lecturer in several countries.  He advises local potters with their kilns, he said, “via the Internet.”

He talked about the making of pottery. “A huge portion of my interest is about the materiality, trying to capture what clay does materially, as to form and texture. That is a consideration of Japanese ceramics, trying to capture what clay does naturally. I’m trying to glorify that. It’s pretty fascinating.”

He has become well known in circles that deal with Japanese ware and tea ceremonies.

Baymore mugsHe currently has three kinds of kilns, he said, for the various types of work. One is a gas/propane model. For finish work he uses a wood-fired kiln and has an electric kiln for specialized finishes. “The bulk is in the wood-fired kiln.”

Until a few years ago, he said, “the wood I used was scrap destined to be burned anyway.” That is no longer available – there is no more ‘scrap wood.’ Everything now is turned into mulch or compressed sawdust boards, or other goods. Nothing is wasted.

“It’s been a great ride,” he said of his career. “You can be successful in the arts if you work at it.” With the corona pandemic, he said, he and his wife, both in their seventies, are staying mostly isolated, but that doesn’t prevent him from creating art objects.

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