Back in 1994, Eric Olson owned a greenhouse business growing gourmet bibb lettuce and sweet basil.
That February, several weeks before the planting season, he signed up for an Introduction to Wheel Pottery class held at the Craftshop in the student union on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The first night of class Eric was able to throw a respectable pot and was immediately hooked on the versatility and feel of the clay.
The class lasted 5 weeks during which time Eric was able to be in the Craftshop studio practicing 6 or 7 days a week for hours at a time. These hours of practice, combined with a strong desire to learn as much about clay as possible and a willingness to push the clay to its limits allowed him to progress at a rapid rate. Soon Eric started to make pots that were worth keeping.
After taking an additional advanced throwing class at Lakeside Pottery in Madison and setting up a barebones studio in a spare bedroom in his house, Eric decided he would sell the greenhouse business and go into pottery-making full time.
So Common Ground Pottery was born in Madison, WI in 1994!
Eric started entering juried art fairs in Wisconsin and surrounding states and was soon attending 15 to 20 quality art fairs every year. Early on, while viewing the slides at an open jury selection for one fair,he noticed that his pottery was the only entry that didn’t have any kind of surface decoration on the pots. His nice dipped glazes had nothing to really make my pots stand out among the many entries.
Wanting to create pottery that was special among other pots, Eric started to experiment with resists and quickly found that he could leave areas of bare clay designs on the surfaces of the pots in the middle of the glazes. After making a dozen or so pots using this technique, Eric found that if he was able to make the resist lines narrow, he could get the glazes close together and make striking, multi-colored designs. Early on there were many failed attempts, as Eric found that he needed to layer the glazes on the pots, to the right thickness. Too thin and he would not get good color; too thick and the glaze would run over a design during the firing wiping out hours of work.
As more glazes were added to his palette, the designs became increasingly complex. Aesthetically pleasing forms were also being developed at the same time and the combination started to win awards and attract collectors at art shows.
Early in his clay career Eric threw every form he could possibly throw trying then all out; everything from casseroles to teapots. Eventually, Eric settled on the vase form because its timeless shape is very versatile. It can be rustic or elegant, functional or decorative, large or small.
Over time Eric’s work became well known for its dramatic satin colors within intricate incised designs. We always found his Arts & Crafts designs stunning. Eric always had a popular booth at the annual Grove Park, Madison, St Paul and other shows.
Eric is also a sailor so several years ago he sailed down the Atlantic coastline to Florida where he now lives in Vero Beach having moved his Common Ground Pottery business with him.
In early 2017 Eric closed Common Ground Pottery although he still does limited pottery under his own name since once a potter gets his hands into the clay, he can’t quit.
Eric also has the knack of teaching so he mesmerizes his students with his warm personality showing them how to throw on a wheel, decorate and glaze their work.
Eric also is accomplished on the guitar so he fills his spare time doing gigs with a local band.
PLEASE NOTE: We have only one of each of the following pieces:
1) A 12" bowl with a lightly sprinkled gray border which is repeated in the center circle and a light brown band decorated with Calla Lily flowers and leaves. Numbered #112 and dated 2002. Marked with the Common Ground Pottery ‘CGP’ and ’Jl’, it is signed ‘Eric Olson‘. 2 Ľ" high. No chips, cracks or repairs. Please scroll down to order.