Article by Nancy Ward
Local artists – June 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
South Park Potter Pat Pocius is always on the go
“On the move” is the way Pat Pocius is pictured by those who know her. Seeing her seated behind a desk in the city producing commercial art to make big bucks for her employer is an impossible image for her acquaintances to envision.
And after she completed her commercial art degree at Iowa State University in 1978, Pocius couldn’t picture it either. What she could see was Central Colorado which she’d visited on a spring break. So she moved, with no job, no place to live, and just the desire to find what was right for her.
Pat’s first stop was Tumblin’ River Ranch at Grant between Fairplay and Denver where she performed numerous and varied tasks — whatever had to be done at the dude ranch.
She moved on to clean condos in Breckenridge.
Later she landed near Fairplay. At Trout Creek Ranch she drove a tractor to drag hay meadows, smoothing out dirt clods and plops of manure to make subsequent work easier on haying equipment.
Always looking for studio space to rent, it was not until 1979 that she found it at the ranch. It was there she got back to making pottery, a love that had originated during her high school days.
For the next few years, Pat worked from her home studio, developing her own line of functional stoneware with her special style of shape and color combinations — refinements unique to each potter.
During this time she also got married, had a son of whom she’s very proud, and got un-married. By 1986 Pocius located property in town which she “snatched” to open her own shop. She’s ideally located at the west end of Fairplay’s Front Street, near South Park City, the town’s museum of historic buildings and artifacts from nearby ghost mining communities.
South Park Pottery is where Pat spends most of her time, throwing at her wheel in the front room of her shop, surrounded by shelves of her stoneware — casseroles, canisters, spice sets, salt and pepper shakers, mugs, cups, goblets and pitchers, cookie and snack jars, colanders and soup bowls. Some of her more unusual and time-consuming creations are lotion dispensers, oil lamps, mountain man jugs, and a spigoted keg on a handmade wooden stand. She also makes clay beads and jewelry.
Pat’s especially proud of the ceramic tea-ball she dreamed up for connoisseurs who believe metal balls and tea don’t mix. She’s proud of the original design which she throws on the wheel, leaving an opening for a cork. She pokes holes in the ball, allowing steeping water to mingle with the tea leaves inside to make the perfect cup of tea — in a cup or mug thrown by Pat, of course.
FROM THE WHEEL where her practiced hands form the variety of vessels she creates, each pot is shelved to dry, then fired in an electric kiln, cooled, glazed and fired again.
One method Pat likes for glazing is learned from New Mexico Indians who produce Santa Clara Pottery. Her finished products are similar but lack the shiny black Santa Clara glaze, she says.
As a vacation from serious production, Pat enjoys Raku, a Japanese firing method for specially glazed ceramic and porcelain pots. For the Raku, she fires a glazed item in her kiln “until red hot,” then quickly places each in a container of sawdust that flames and/or smolders. She experiments with sawdust from various kinds of wood and with varied amounts of elapsed time (seconds or minutes) before the airtight container is closed to smother the burn; then the pot is dipped in water for cooling.
The resulting glaze is far different than her regular work. Raku produces a variety of colors and shades from black to fluorescent green and blue and metallic hues. Even though Raku may be more fun, she notes it’s the functional ware that pays the bills.
South Park Pottery pieces are also sold at other locations — artistic pieces including Raku at Wind and Snow Gallery and the Black Mountain Gallery in Fairplay, and functional stonework at stores in Jackson Hole and Saratoga, Wyoming.
Nearly every other weekend Pocius travels to shows, mostly in Colorado but also “big shows” in Dallas and Kansas City as well as some Indian markets. She sells her wares, talks with other artists and craftsmen, gets ideas and enjoys.
THE POTTER CREDITS her teenage son, Dan, for his contributions. “He’s a big part of South Park Pottery,” she says proudly. He assists in many aspects of the business and contributes good ideas.
With her shop, her pottery, and her reputation firmly established, Pat expanded her business by adding coffee, tea and spices to the merchandise already offered at South Park Pottery. Customers requested various herbs and, as she supplied their needs, she learned her new trade “little by little,” acquiring fresh knowledge and skills.
“Curing the Incurables,” is how she explains the healing herbs she carries. The proper use of various medicinal herbs has become one of Pat’s strong interests.
“I probably give away more than I sell,” she says as she tells one customer to “try this” and another to “try that.” She says, “If I can help my friends, the giving or selling doesn’t matter.” As a people person, Pat has many friends.
She also carries beading supplies and Navajo silver jewelry, along with a few consignment articles from other artists and craftsmen.
Pocius is good at giving and always in motion throughout her community. “I don’t say `no’ very well,” she admits, but you get the feeling there are few times she’s tempted to say no.
Constantly on the move, from South Park Pottery Pat heads across Fairplay to the school where she teaches adult classes in pottery and other subjects from October through May. Year-round she also moves in Chamber of Commerce circles, serving in various capacities as needed — and even as president.
Nobody has to tell Pat Pocius to “Get a move on.”
Nancy Ward lives in Saguache and writes from all over the place.