There are few locals who don’t have several pieces of Jan Hoyman’s pottery in their kitchen. Hoyman has created thousands of bowls, mugs, platters, cups, planters, vases, teapots, pitchers and more, all hand-painted with her signature designs that reflect the colors, themes and character of Mendocino county, the place she has called home for 40 years.
Hoyman attended Indiana University in the early 70’s, majoring in early childhood education. “One of the degree requirements was taking an art course. I took a pottery class, got hooked, and left childhood education behind,” she smiles.
From there, Hoyman attended a pottery workshop in the Sierras. She dug her own clay, made homemade bricks for cedar-fired kilns and created glaze from woodstove ashes. “That was where my career began.”
Following a brutal Michigan winter, Hoyman and her ex-husband moved to California. In 1984, they purchased the former Ukiah Creamery building, setting up their pottery studio. “It was a nice, sturdy building that we could wash with a hose,” she laughs.
By this time, Hoyman was a professional potter, shipping pottery to about 40 galleries across the country. “To survive in this rural community, we had to bring our wholesale accounts and our employment with us.”
Over time, the business transitioned as the local customer base continued to expand. Today Hoyman employs nine people, with her retail gallery located adjacent to the original studio. Two of her employees have been with her for nearly 20 years. “I’m so thrilled to have been able to offer them employment for all this time, and even more, to have earned their loyalty and respect.”
Hoyman’s pottery is functional beauty, sturdy enough for daily use, and elegant enough for candlelight dinners. “I knew early on I wanted to put my heart and soul in people’s homes, enriching and touching their lives. There is humanity in every single piece, because several people have touched each one at least 20 times, if not more.”
Hoyman pays homage to her germinal experiences with pottery by leaving some exposed red clay on every piece. “I still have great love for bare clay. It represents the ‘roots’ of the pieces.”
Pieces are coated with cream slip, fired, and decoration applied, followed by an application of clear glaze and a second firing. “The colors change and deepen after the application of glazes. Every time we open a kiln, it’s like Christmas,” she smiles.
Hoyman’s designs are a celebration of Mendocino County. “We have nature, not cityscapes, so we reflect what is around us.” Native plants and flowers, fish, farm scenes and animals are hand-painted, and many collectors mix and match multiple patterns.
“We still offer some of our original designs, and they’re still popular. Occasionally, I’m asked to recreate a retired design. If I can see a photo of the piece, we’ll try to reproduce the shape and design as best we can, and we also do customized pieces upon request.”
Hoyman encourages her employees to create their own designs. “It’s very fulfilling to see staff express themselves and try out new ideas.” She values being a responsive community resource, and is a generous supporter of other potters and community organizations.
The next generation is now collecting Hoyman’s pottery. “We’re getting wedding registry signups from people who grew up with our pottery, which is so gratifying. I’m so very appreciative of this community.”
Hoyman’s pottery can be microwaved or placed in an oven by gradually raising the temperature of the piece. It should not be exposed to direct flame. And, like people, says Hoyman, the gentler the care they receive, the longer they’ll last.
The Jan Hoyman Studio is located at 323 N. Main Street in downtown Ukiah. The studio is open weekdays 10 to 5:30, and Saturdays 10:00 to 4:00. For more information: www.JanHoymanStudio.com or phone 707-468-8835.