John Davis

Our Process

Initially, John was known for his graceful vases inlaid with floral and cactus designs inspired by the colors and flora of the Chihuahuan Desert. Though these vases are still a favorite with galleries and collectors across the United States and Canada, John’s pottery evolved into the distinctive pieces you can see on our site through a fascination with their daughters’ favorite playtime activity: digging for buried treasure in the ground surrounding their rural Far West Texas home. The girls would bring their finds to him, showing him the way that age made their various keepsakes turn amazing colors from the heat and the chemicals in the soil.

John became interested in creating pottery with that same feeling of eternal endurance, like an object unearthed from a prehistoric archaeological dig.

He found the look he was seeking in 16th century Japan. Originally used to create pottery graceful and beautiful enough to match the traditional art of the Japanese tea ceremony, which calls for tranquil movements and a presence of great wisdom, harmony, and compassion, Raku creates a delicate glaze that looks ethereal and otherworldly, a fitting companion for the spiritual uses to which it is put.

John was captivated by the beauty of the technique, which gave the impression, fresh out of the kiln, of being simultaneously as old as the pyramids and as beautifully fragile as a butterfly’s wings. John set himself to mastering this extremely difficult, volatile technique, and his creations attest to how well he learned the skill.

Each of our Raku creations were made here in the J. Davis Studio in Alpine, TX, using clay manufactured locally in Austin, TX at the Armadillo Clay Company. They’ve been our supplier for over 30 years, and their clay makes our entire process, from start to finish, completely American-made.

While our materials are homespun American, our much-admired pottery technique was invented hundreds of years ago in 16th century Japan, with the Raku technique.

Most forms of pottery involve baking the wet clay in a firing kiln, which slowly cools over time. If the kiln is poorly made or the pottery does not set properly, the finished product can crack or even explode. For this reason, most pottery is not exposed to the cool air outside the kiln until has cooled on its own.

Raku breaks with this tradition and – quite literally – plays with fire to create its stunning glaze. Raku is created by removing the freshly-baked pottery from the kiln with long-handled tongs while still glowing red-hot, and quickly placing it inside a metal can lined with combustible locally recycled newspaper, which bursts into flame on contact with the heated pottery.

When this paper ignites, the container is closed quickly to cut off oxygen. The lack of oxygen and the smoke from the burning material react with the special glaze on the pottery, creating a chemical reaction and a one-of-a-kind surface glaze. After a few minutes, the can is popped open and quickly sprayed with a burst of water, which freezes the luminescent colors of cobalt, gold, copper, turquoise, and violet.

As you might imagine, the process is extremely delicate, and only experienced craftsman can consistently turn out flawless pottery. Even so, the intense thermal shock means that many pieces will still break – and every piece that survives the fire is an extraordinary treasure of great beauty and resilience.

This process is the core of our ornaments, candlesticks, vases and keepsake boxes – but our innerSpirit Rattles are by far our most beloved creations.

Rattles have been used for meditation in countless cultures, and are commonly used in music for a strong, subtle rhythm that seeps through the main harmony and into the mind. Their gentle sounds sink deeply into us, lulling us into a place of safety and creating the perfect environment for contemplation. While many use rattles to channel their thoughts or awaken certain emotions, others simply find the sound of a rattle soothing to the ear, and the smooth feel of our Raku pottery comforting in the hand. Whatever you are feeling, we are certain you will find your innerSpirit Rattle a source of delight, comfort, and beauty in your life.

As Robin says, “The Chihuahuan Desert is isolated, harsh, and rugged, but the beauty and peacefulness of our area reinforces faith, and encourages an appreciation of even the smallest things in life. I believe the rattles carry a little of this emotion inside each one.”

The rattles carry the spirit of the desert with them all over the United States, in galleries, catalogs, gift shops, hospitals, churches, national parks, and museums. For those of you who have never stumbled across them in person, you can see the beautiful work here on our site, and order one through our payment system so that you can hold them in your hand.