Since 1979 Jane Hock has been throwing pottery in the best way. Completely practical, usable and delightfully artistic, her custom pottery pieces are found in homes all over the United States, with one thing in common, they all started in Strawberry as a lump of clay in Hock’s talented hands.
“I started in 1974 out of sheer boredom,” said Hock. She and her husband Joe Hock were married at the Tonto Natural Bridge in 1974. The young couple had come up to Pine-Strawberry for the summer and they never left. Joe passed in August of 2019.
Looking for something to do, Hock found Nan Pyle’s Art Center on Main Street in Payson.
“In many ways Nan was ahead of her time,” Hock said, about finding the fine art location. “In 1974 there was hardly a grocery store in Payson.”
In that Art Center Hock and a couple others found an artist in residence who began to teach them the art of being a potter. For the next five years, Hock found herself immersed in the creative world of pottery.
“We would stay all night firing in the kiln,” she said of her time in Payson learning her craft.
Her husband also found himself in the potters’ world and eventually built the studio where she can be found most any day transforming a lump of clay into a fabulous piece of practical art.
Her studio encompasses all aspects of her art, she has a lovely display room, adjacent to the actual working studio, and visitors often get a tour of how it’s all done.
Just one serving bowl can take two to three weeks to complete and will be handled 25 times or more Hock said.
With quiet easy music in the background, Hock starts with her favorite clay, speckled buff and a chocolate looking bit of soft stuff. A 4-pound ball of clay will become a serving bowl. It goes to the wheel where her hands form and shape the item she is thinking of, just her hands. A coffee mug, a vase, a platter, a pitcher, depends on her whim, and customer demand.
The day’s work then goes to a drying rack where it can take days to dry to the “leathery” stage, Hock said. If determined to have just the perfect leathery feel, Hock will put the pieces through their first firing, called the bisque.
Her delicate pieces enter a kiln — a really big oven that gets incredibly hot — and are fired (think baked if you must) at 1,800 degrees for several hours and cooled for many more.
More creativity comes as Hock determines what glaze, or glazes to apply to the pieces before her. She washes them thoroughly, applies a wax sealant to the bottom and then the artist creates through glaze.
Hock may apply one glaze in a blue, or several layers of purple and white. The colors are as various as her ability to combine and create. Each glaze is applied a little differently — maybe over the whole piece, maybe just in spots.
“I’m a multi-dipper,” she smiled. “The more glazes, the more depth, the more alive the pottery.”
These glazed items as many as 60 at a time, will enter the kiln for the second and final firing at 2,300 degrees for 12 hours. Then there are two days of cooling before the individual completed product can be removed from the kiln to the delight of the artist.
“Every part is a favorite, but opening that kiln and seeing my finished product,” Hock sighed. The gleam of excitement and passion for the art is evident.
“If you’re not enjoying and loving it, it’s just another dirty job,” Hock said.
Customers are invited to step into her world, her studio, located at 7942 W. Sumac Dr., it’s tucked up behind Linda’s Unique Treasures in Strawberry, look for the sign just before the creek and the studio is about 100 yards up the dirt road. Hock’s studio is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. If you visit you will get much more than a shopping stop.
Her studio has a variety of everyday items that come with an individual personality. Custom items created in the mountain hamlet of Strawberry.