After a mild midlife crisis, potter John Delafield left his career in the software industry and became an eighth-grade art teacher in his hometown of Pasadena. After getting over the shock of his first year of teaching, he believes he’s got the best job now.
Perhaps it was the job he was meant to have.
It was in eighth grade when Delafield started to fall in love with art — and school.
“School was difficult for me,” he said. “My parents had my eyes checked to see if that was the problem. No. I had good vision and hearing. I just didn’t find school that interesting until I hit eighth grade and was put in an art class. From then on school had a purpose to me.”
Delafield grew up in Pasadena and kept himself entertained as a child by making things out of any material that was available. He thinks he got the artistic gene from his father, a professional attorney who would occasionally break out the oils and paint a landscape.
Delafield would make figures out of clay, crossbows out of wood and springs, and even ships that had a ballast so that they could float upright.
“I once made a cannon out of a copper tube and scraped gunpowder out of caps,” Delafield recalled. “That thing fired. Everyone heard it and ran out of the house. I was told not to do it again.”
AV: What got you interested in pottery?
JD: “I went to San Jacinto College for three years and University of Houston for two. I got a (bachelor’s) degree in art with an emphasis in ceramics. Huey Beckham was my primary instructor at U of H. While there I learned the potter’s wheel and we fired a wood-burning kiln. I collected cow poop and did a primitive firing. But primarily I learned that I loved clay and its properties.”
AV: What are you best known for?
JD: “My work is functional. I am compelled to have function. I am also compelled to have glazes that I find interesting. However, glazing is not as high a priority to me as form and function. Customers will bring ideas to me and I will sometimes use the ideas but I will try to put my own spin on it. My best sellers are coffee cups and soup bowls. At this point in the game, I feel obligated to bring a good selection of both to a market along with other supporting pieces. The latest idea to take off is a sponge holder for the sink. It is like a cup with the sides cut out. It allows a sponge to air dry without laying flat on the side of the sink.”
AV: Where can you be found?
JD: “I used to try to hit a market every weekend. But now, two to three shows a month is plenty. The other weekends are for building inventory or just relaxing.
“My primary shows are the First Saturday Art Market in the Heights and the Market at Sawyer Yards on the second Saturday. I have loyal customers at these markets who will come check out my offerings each month. I also end up in Richardson, Texas, a couple times a year to do a farmer’s market and see the grandkids.”
AV: What challenges you?
JD: “A restaurant in Kemah, Eculent, has been ordering custom serving pieces from me over the past couple of years. They create a very unique dining experience and utilize my work in displaying and serving their courses. It is a creative process for me that is nothing like my regular pottery. The owner, David Skinner, and I discuss the vision he has and we come up with ways to display the food and the portions he serves. Dining at Eculent is a commitment of an evening and each course is designed to amaze and entertain. So my work has to be able to add to this experience. It is quite the challenge for me but also a lot of fun.”
AV: How about the, “You’ll never believe this but …” category?
JD: “As an infant, my parents took me to Disneyland. My dad saw Walt Disney walking around, greeting guests, checking out the facilities. My dad said, ‘Walt, I want you to meet my son.’ Walt shook my hand. Probably my left hand.”
Follow Delafield online @delafieldpottery
Cohen is an artist and founder of First Saturday Arts Market and the Market at Sawyer Yards, find him at ArtValet.com