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Plenty of people pleasing Pearsall pottery pieces

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Plenty of people pleasing Pearsall pottery pieces

Artisan Randy Pearsall looks over a new batch of his ceramic stoneware collection that just came out of the kiln at his rural Manteca studio.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin /HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin


POSTED December 20, 2008 2:49 a.m.
Visitors from all over the world stay at the famous rustic, elegant, and pricey Awahanee Hotel in Yosemite Valley.
Many stop by the hotel’s gift shop where they can find unique “function ware” ranging from soup tureens and dinner plates to vases, platters and latte cups.
You can peruse and — if you wish — purchase the same items plus many more without paying the high markup or traveling more than two hours and braving snow to do it.
All you have to do is head a mile east of Manteca on Louise Avenue and stop by Pearsall Stoneware Studio either today or Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Not only can you see the pottery at its source, but you can also chat with the artisan who creates it.
Randy Pearsall has devoted the last 29 years to creating functional art.
The Manteca artisan noted it was rewarding to know “people are using my work to eat cereal out of every morning.”
In many cases, those who buy his “function ware” feel a strong connection to the man who created it.
One couple from England visiting Yosemite Valley found out that his studio was on the way back to the San Francisco area. They called him to see if they could stop by. They ended up spending a good amount of time chatting and ordered a 12-place setting.
“It cost more to ship it to England than it did for them to buy it,” Pearsall said.
Although the Christmas season is the only time he opens his studio for just the purpose of a local sale, it isn’t unusual for prospective buyers to call up and stop by to see his workshop as well as buy items.

Silver maple leaves from family yard
“It isn’t set up like displays I have up now, but they can still buy items,” he said.
If they do drop by, they see the rural Manteca setting that inspires his work including the silver maple tree that produces the leaves he picks and then glazes and fires into the design of his trademark pieces.
The National Conservatory was so taken by his work that they commissioned him to make dishware that incorporated actual East Coast oak leaves into the design. But the leaf didn’t quite do the trick as it created problems with the process. Pearsall found another oak leaf that closely resembled the National Conservatory’s leave choice that represents its trademark, the group gave their OK, and the non-profit had their dishes.
New pieces this year include tumblers and latte cups that — at $10 apiece — are extremely competitive with run-of-the-mill items found in chain stores.
Pearsall said he intentionally prices his items so they are affordable. The most expensive among his 90 different pieces is a set of canisters selling for $90.
He’ll produce 800 pieces in a typical week with 12-hour workdays, six days a week are standard.
“The big plus is I get to work at home,” Pearsall said.
He also finds inspiration for some of his work around the house. Besides the classic silver maple leaf design in much of his work, watching his wife Karen in the kitchen has lead to some strong sellers including a popular egg beating dish.
He spent time watching his wife whip eggs and noticed how she’d tilt the bowl. So he went back to his studio and started experimenting.
He created a handle that — when held level — tilts the bowl.
He didn’t stop there. He creates egg-beating bowls for those who are left-handed as well as right-handed people. And like his other pieces, each one is unique in shape and color plus they are dishwasher safe, durable and can handle a range of temperatures from cold to extremely hot. And like all of his creations you can use them in a microwave.
Pearsall said that of all things hr makes, he has a partiality to salt and peppershakers because of technical challenges they pose from trying to fashion the exact fitting for the bottom plug to making the holes on the top.

Pearsall makes his own ceramic glazes
Pearsall is constantly experimenting. His glazes aren’t manufactured. Instead, he purchases various chemicals and creates them himself for the greatest variety of colorings and design creations. He emphasizes that none of them use lead.
He comes by his interest in monkeying with glazes by training — he was a chemistry major at San Jose State University.
It is unusual for someone to make a living off their art, it is even more rare when it is a one-man operation.
Pearsall does art and craft shows throughout Northern California; Genoa, Nev.; Arizona, and occasionally Southern California.
One Southern California town — Springville — has an annual show that Pearsall has gone to for years.
“People come by our booths at a lot of shows and tell us about other pieces they have,” Pearsall said. “They ask how my family is doing. They’re just like friends.”
He recalled a recent call from the town’s high school principal who told him they recently had a potluck at the school. When it was over, everyone was fighting over whose dishware was theirs.
“He said there were about 80 different pieces that I had made at the potluck,” Pearsall said.
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