Working with clay is a way of life. John Hunter has been potting for 53 years and resided in Windhoek, Namibia until August 2021. He now lives in Denver, PA in Lancaster County.
The Hunter’s have been working in Windhoek for 24 years training teachers and in 2005 established a primary school in the township of Katutura where the majority of Blacks live since their forced removal from the center Windhoek in 1960. The school has grown and been very successful. Empty Bowl events at exhibitions of John’s pottery have been useful to promote Community Hope and share the need for quality education. Rather than relying on local potters to donate bowls for events, Hunter has produced over 5000 bowls at his studio. This unique way of forming bowls without a wheel has been a way to train his local apprentices in production pottery giving them skills needed to be successful potters themselves.
After studying at Penland School of Crafts with Cynthia Bringle and other well know potters and ceramic artists such as Toshiko Takaezu, Bruno LaVerdiere, Jane Peiser and others he launched his career at “The Pot Shop” in Venice Beach California where he met master potter Ned Sloane. Bringle’s, Takaezu’s and Sloane’s influence of Asian ceramic style stuck and he developed a love for the simple yet elegant work of Shoji Hamada and Bernard Leach that has guided his work until the present day.
While Hunter’s true passion is education and teacher training, working with clay is central to all he does. He has done workshops worldwide with his potter’s wheel, demonstrating throwing, glaze decoration and Sumi-e brushwork for potters in Southern Africa, Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and North and South America.
He uses electric, gas and wood-fired kilns to finish his work. In 2017 at the Potter’s Association of Namibia’s Biennale two of his Elephant Mug Sculptures were awarded the Premiere Award and purchased by the Namibian Arts Association for their permanent collection. In 2019 he won the Premier award again, this time for one of his wood-fire tea pots.
After moving to a new studio and home last year Hunter built a 50 cu. ft. wood fired, cross-draft, salt glaze kiln. Hunter plans to publish a guide to Kiln building for the complete idiot soon with detailed instructions of what not to do!
While Hunter’s love of clay and fire provide a baseline for his life and work it is his passion for education that truly inspires him. The opportunity to bring the quality of learning that his own children had into the Damara location at Community Hope School is what drives him. Selling pots in Namibia with its limited population and lack of sophistication for ceramic art as a whole has been a challenge and Hunter packs up most of his pottery for sales in the USA and Europe each year as he and his wife travel and fundraise for the school.