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Phil says he likes living in Seagrove because there are so many people who share his interest in pottery. In the last five years, the Seagrove area has grown from 42 potters to 90, more than doubling the size of the pottery community. The number of potters in the area makes it much easier to borrow materials, he says.
"If someone runs out of materials at 8:00 at night and they're glazing and need some feldspar or something, they've got 90," he said. "They can call up and say, 'Hey, you got any cobalt, got any copper?' And it means a lot."
Phil's first experience with pottery was in 1954, when Wayman Cole let him play on a pottery wheel. From that time on, he spent about 16 hours every day working with clay. Now he especially enjoys experimenting with glazes. His specialty is crystalline glazes, and art of creating crystals in the glaze. It is an old Oriental art that originated in China in 600 AD. Crystalline glazes are more complicated than basic salt glazes, which he says was developed about 400 years ago. He throws away thousands of pieces trying to get a glaze that's perfect, a difficult task because the glaze tends to run off the piece and into a basin that sits below the piece during the firing. Phil said that he experimented for 8 years before he finally made the glaze work.
He also uses a stacked glaze, which involves 5 or 6 different glazes in rainbow formation on the same piece. This, he says is stunning when it works correctly, because as each glaze melts into the next one, the two together create a different color. After beginning to experiment with the glaze in 1973, he finally perfected the technique in 1981 and has been using it ever since.
Phil doesn't sell any bad pieces, because he feels that his reputation as an artist rests on each piece. "You're only as good as the worst piece you let out the door because it's representing you," he said. "That's why I always break the pieces that aren't good. A good piece will represent you well. A bad piece will hurt you far more than a good piece will help you. My philosophy has always been that piece represents me."