In 1978 Greg Felando and John Greiser established Arcanum Ranch Pottery in the rugged redwood forest of California's Lost Coast Region. The potters began with a large, two chambered wood burning kiln they designed and built themselves. Using 1.5 cords of scrap redwood for each firing they produced many beautiful and unique pieces. In 1986 with the supply of scrap wood becoming scarce, they built a propane fired kiln from a kit which they still use today for oxidation firings. In 1997 they added a second, professionally built gas kiln which is used primarily for reduction firings.
Over the years Greg and John have developed many beautiful glazes and pottery forms. Take time to enjoy the many pottery pictures in this web site. You will also find the complete story of how these two professional men left their jobs in Los Angeles for an uncertain crafter's future in the wilds of northern California.
Why would two men living in Los Angeles, one a history and English teacher, the other an electrical engineer at Hughes Aircraft, leave their well-paid positions and start a pottery business in the wilds of northern California's Lost Coast? Is this the secret of Arcanum Ranch Pottery?
The two, Greg Felando teacher, and John Greiser engineer, met at a pottery studio in Culver City in 1976. They got started in the craft by taking four lessons for $25 from the owner and then were on their own: learning by doing. For two years they practiced their hobby evenings and weekends, firing a pottery kiln exactly one time. Little did they realize what lay ahead of them in the ceramic field.
During the late 70's the L.A.School system had begun escorting some of its teachers to their cars at the end of the school day because of the threat of violence. Crime, traffic congestion and smog were on the rise in the City of Angles. Even with good salaries, it was difficult to enjoy the "good life". The sparsely populated forests of northern California seemed to promise a serene utopia, lush and green from generous rainfall. It was a siren call to the harried city dwellers.
They began to design the wood-burning kiln they would fire and the house they would live in. Consulting rainfall maps they found that the coastal strip in the Whitethorn region received an average of 90 inches in a normal year during the period October through May. That suited them fine. They found a fifty acre parcel three miles from the coast, tucked into old-growth redwood and fir forests though a United Farm Real Estate catalogue and purchased the property sight unseen over the telephone -- something not recommended to others. In June of 1978 they left the smog and crime of L.A. behind and headed north.
By Thanksgiving of 1978 with the aid of hired help they had finished the studio and most of their home. The next summer the soon-to-be-potters would build a two chambered, catenary arch, wood burning kiln of their own design. Although they now fire a smaller, propane kiln the large wood burner gave them valuable experience and an historical perspective of how pottery was made thousands of years ago. And they readily admit that many unique pieces were produced in the wood-fired kiln that cannot be reproduced today in the gas kiln.
Both Felando and Greiser have a total commitment to quality in their product. Clay bodies are constantly evaluated for their throw ability, purity, and durability; and over the years the potters have changed clay suppliers many times when the clay product did not meet their rigid standards. All of the glazes they use are mixed and milled at the studio so that they have complete control of what goes into them. No lead or cadmium is used in any glaze recipe, most of which are their own exclusive creations.
The two have specialized in reproducing many of the classic Chinese glazes such as ox blood, temmoku, mirror black, crackle ware, emerald green as well as many new glazes and combinations of their own. All ware is fired to cone 10 or 2300 o F so that it is fully vitrified and strong. Forms are kept simple and classic so as not to detract from the beauty of the glaze.
Felando works exclusively with porcelain, a fine, pure white clay body that is very demanding to throw successfully. He carves intricate designs on dry, unfired pieces which when coated with certain glazes are high-lighted in a process called shadowing. He also produces a very wide range of forms including vases of all possible shapes and colors.
Greiser primarily throws stoneware, a coarser and darker clay than porcelain. It is more suited to large pieces and its warm color enhances earth tone glazes. Both men make a great variety of utilitarian ware; including plates, bowls, mugs, candle holders, shot glasses, platters and large salad and mixing bowls. They readily accept commissions for sets of pottery as well as creating new designs for their customers. All ware is totally guaranteed.
The studio is open every weekend and every day that the partners are there. Visitors are welcomed graciously and shown all of the interesting details of fine pottery production. Periodically a local school brings a class of students to see the operation and get some inspiration from what these two city transplants have accomplished.
Only three miles from the Pacific Ocean the Pottery is close to three campgrounds, including the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park with its spectacular shoreline, excellent camping and hiking, and herd of Roosevelt elk, as well as the King Range National Recreational Area. To the north is Shelter Cove, a lovely costal community with excellent salmon and rock cod fishing. To the east on Highway 101 are the small towns of Garberville and Redway, where restaurants and motels can be found. Shelter Cove also boasts several inns and restaurants. Why not plan a trip to "Redwood Country" and see the natural wonders of northern California?