In a booth at the Moscow Farmer”s Market sits completely unique pottery. Each piece has a one-of-a-kind pattern of thick and fine, black, squiggling lines scattered across its surface. Jean Anglen, the artist, creates the lines using sizzling horsehair.
To make the pottery, Anglen said she mixes a product called grog with ceramic based clay and fires the piece. She said she then reheats the piece in the kiln to around 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and takes it out while hot.
“Then you just hold the hair up and when the piece is the right temperature and the static electricity is correct, it”ll pull the hair right out of your hands and just make whatever design it chooses,” Anglen said.
The hair creates lines that are completely flush with the pottery surface. Anglen said the process makes a sizzling sound and a stinky smell, but the lines are what makes each piece unique. She said it”s her favorite part of making her pottery.
“That”s why I do it. All that other stuff is kind of just preparation,” Anglen said. “But the most exciting thing, the thing that makes it what it is, is putting the hair on it.”
Horsehair pottery making is a process from Navajo tradition. Anglen said she first saw it in 2005 at a Navajo reservation in Arizona during a vacation. There, she had the opportunity to see the work being done and said she was overwhelmed by the process and the wonderful response of the hair and the product.
“It just dances and pops and fizzles, you know, and makes wonderful patterns,” Anglen said.
She said when she returned from the trip she decided she would learn how to do it.
“And it took about a year till I got a piece I”d show anybody,” Anglen said. “The rest are all filling up holes in our driveway.”
Anglen owns a business called Pahattery to sell her work. She said the name came from when she was living in Paha, Washington, where she began making horsehair pottery.
“And now I live in Cottonwood and I don”t know what to call it. So I just stay with Pahattery,” Anglen said.
Anglen said she uses only local products. She said the clay is from Deary and the hair is from her own pasture, which gives her pieces a different appearance than traditional Navajo works.
Anglen said she”s been working with pottery and ceramics since she was 15 years old and has always enjoyed the tactile nature of it. She said her career in business was stressful and took considerable energy because she would come home and her head would be swimming with numbers, people and calls. She said pottery was therapeutic for her and allowed her to forget the stress. Now, Anglen is retired and said she sneaks off into her studio to work whenever she can.
Despite being a vendor at the farmer”s market for less than a year, she loves it and said it is the most successful venue for selling her work. Anglen said she and her husband, Eldon, have taken her pottery to many different places in the last few years. She said if there was a craft fair, they were there. Often though, they would spend more money than they made.
Anglen said at small craft fairs, most people aren”t prepared to spend $100 on one piece. Better sellers are smaller works, which she said also sell well in Moscow.
She said she loves the ever-changing crowd at the Moscow market. While she said she does see some people week after week, often there are many new faces. She attributed her success in Moscow to the spirit of the city.
“This is such a youthful city,” Algren said. “Even though people may not be young, they have an entirely different attitude about life. They”re excited about new things and they”re always curious about new things. I love the environment here.”
Jean and Eldon Algren said they”ve been married almost three years and live at Eldon”s home with 13 acres near Cottonwood, Idaho. Eldon said he supports Jean”s hobby by helping with the booth at the market and moving things around at home. He said he didn”t know anything about horsehair pottery until he met Jean.
“It”s just unique,” Eldon said. “I”m not really much of an artist. Most art is kind of strange to me, but this is good. I think it”s pretty stuff.”
Jean said the two plan to go to Quartzsite, Arizona, to sell her work at a massive farmer”s market-style event.
She has been building up inventory for the trip, which she said she is very excited for regardless of financial outcome.
“It could be a really good thing, or it could just be a break-even thing or we could lose our butt. But either way we”re going,” Jean said.
The figures Jean likes making most are horses. She said she was very horse oriented as a young woman. She brought her daughter up on a small ranch riding horses and said the animals have always had a soft spot in her heart. Her favorite piece is a bust of three running horses.
“I just like that one,” Jean said “They”re running and they”re wild and they”re free.”
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