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August BOC Spotlight Artist- Joan Miller

  This month's BOC Spotlight Artist is Joan Miller of Joan Miller Porcelain.. Joan's   studio is located in Fleetwood, PA.

Joan chooses to call herself a
bead artist.  She says that when she was very young she did not like to call herself an artist because she did not feel she was good enough to be called one.  Her husband always called her an artist and she would cringe a little.  Now she claims the title. She creates original work and  calls herself an artist.  She adds, "If anyone doesn't consider beads a worthy art pursuit or finds my work lacking that's fine, but I am still an ARTIST! " See her award winning beads below. Joan is admired for her whimsical designs, collaborative jewelry and her fabulous slip trailing work.

Joan has been working in clay for 20 years; using Cone 6 Porcelain and firing in an electric kiln. Joan works in a 10' x11' bedroom and keeps her kilns in the basement. Joan reports that In the studio she works alone but sometimes has had friends work for her for short periods of time but she says she is never organized enough to have someone assist a a regular basis.
Joan says " I have several different lines and I always try and experiment with something new.  I try not to stay in my "box" .  Since most people know me for my colored porcelain work I will discuss the steps for making those beads. 

Joan's Steps:

1. Mix slip colors.  Simply mixing ceramic stains into porcelain slip.  I am not very scientific and really don't care if my blue is the exactly the same as the last time.

2. Form base bead to decorate.  Smaller beads are hand formed from colored slip that has been dried to solid clay state.  Larger forms are cast .  I cast larger forms so that they are hollow and not too heavy.

3.  Decorate the bead (after cutting the hole.) I place bead on a bamboo skewer and hold in place with two o-rings. Slip is applied in layers with detail and liner brushes from a small pallet.  I often put many layers of slip on a  bead even for simple designs because I like alot of relief on my beads. 

4. Bisque fire

5. Clear glaze and fire

Joan's glazing techniques include using a clear glaze on her colored slip and she mentions liking Georgie's Textured Glazes especially Vanilla Cream Matte over Cool Lime Matte. which is very stoney looking and mostly a pinky sandstone color. 

 Winner at Bead Dreams 2010

Joan's favorite themes and  inspirations include nature and busy patterns  She says that basically anything that has lodged itself in her memory can come out in her work.  Mostly though she is inspired by process.  When she makes a bead sometimes she wants to repeat it and see a whole bunch together.  Sometimes  one thing will inspire the next.  She is not a person that plans and designs in a sketch book.  

Joan admires many ceramic artists including Melanie Brooks,Curtis Benzle, and Lisa Peters. Joan shows her beads at 12-15 bead shows a year, plus she sells online and  has recently picked up a little bit of wholesale to fill in the gaps.

Her advice to newbies: "Find your own voice. You do this by following your own quirks.  If you find you are drawn to something pursue it even if you don't know why or it doesn't make sense.  When you see someone's work that you really admire and would like to be your own;  Don't imitate it.  Take the time to figure out what about that work intrigues you then incorporate it into your own work."

Joan's favorite tool or piece of equipment is a tiny needle tool made by sticking the eye end of a sewing needle into the eraser of an unsharpened pencil.  She says she can't even take credit for this.She had a sewing needle taped to a stick and her mother looked at it , grabbed a pencil and stuck a needle into it.  These needle tools usually last her for years. The pencil gets worn out before the eraser dries up too much to hold the needle. 

Resources and information on Joan Miller Porcelain 

Joan, Thanks for the wonderland journey into your artist's world. Joan Tucker 2010


  1. I have admired Joan's work for many years. It is great to see so much of it in one place and to hear about her process. She is incredible. Her work always amazes and pleases me. Thank you so much Joan for sharing her with our beading community.

  2. Another fan of Joan and her work. Thank you for sharing with us.

  3. What a nice profile - I love Joan's work and am so happy to have some of it in my personal collection. Joan, I loved reading everything you shared, but the bit about how your favorite tool evolved made me laugh!

  4. Thanks is a great tip for holding the needle. Sometimes those tiny sharp points are the only thing that works!
    I have a bracelet that I bought from Joan many years ago when she was selling finished jewelry. I love it!

  5. Ceramics Daily just held a contest for homemade tools. I think Joan's would have won if it had been entered! :)

    Love your bead art, Joan!


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