Gail Pfeifer – Laughing Gull Pottery
“I am a Jersey girl—born and bred,” says Gail Pfeifer, the face—and talented hands—behind Laughing Gull Pottery. She started life further north in the Garden State, but her present life in Stone Harbor is reflected in her hand-thrown pottery pieces, their soothing colors representative of the sand, sea, and sky.
Gail loved drawing as a kid. “I dreamed of being an artist, and as I approached high school, I looked into attending the duCret School of Art in Plainfield.” Life intervened. “My parents convinced me that art could be a difficult way to support myself,” Gail said. “When a favorite aunt passed away, I thought about helping sick people and began looking into nursing schools. I loved nursing and spent years as a critical care RN, nursing educator, and clinical nurse specialist. But I longed to get back to my art.”
About a year after marrying in 1977, she signed up for painting lessons near their Piscataway home. “I created some oil paintings that hang in my house today.” Gail stayed home to raise their first son, but when she became pregnant with their second child, her muse beckoned. “I made time to get back to my art again and signed up for a local pottery class,” she said. “It appealed to me like nothing else. I had no visions of starting a business; just exploring the art for its own sake was enough for me.
“The studio had a large gas kiln, and I still have pieces from that studio that I made over 35 years ago. I am hesitant to sell them because the glazes and that kind of firing are not locally available to me now. I keep them in our Stone Harbor home and love to look at and use them.”
While the finished pot may appear to be a simple form, several steps are involved in the process. “Making a functional and beautiful wheel-thrown pot depends on several things: the materials, the potter’s skills, and the vagaries of glazing and firing. Each step of throwing a pot on the wheel—choosing the clay, centering, shaping, trimming, bisque firing, glazing, and final firing—builds on the previous step. All must be done well, or the pot—or its function—will fail. I mostly throw on the wheel, and that’s one of my favorite parts of the process.” The most challenging part for Gail is glazing, so consistency can be a challenge.
But part of the excitement is that inconsistency: “Every piece I make is unique. Each illustrates the results of different clay bodies, shapes, trimming styles, glazes, and decorative techniques. And the very best part of the whole process for me is opening the kiln after the glaze firing and seeing how my pots have turned out. It’s like Christmas morning.”
Gail spends much of her downtime writing, entertaining family and friends at the beach, and traveling. “When I can’t do pottery, I still dabble in drawing and sketching. Now my favorite subjects are our children, our three grandchildren, and of course our beautiful beach and marsh scenery.”
You can find Laughing Gull pottery at the Ocean City Arts Center during the winter months and Gail has exhibited at The Mad Batter and Art Space in West Cape May. You can find her work online at laughinggullpottery.com and follow her at Laughing Gull Pottery on Facebook and on Instagram @thelaughinggullpotter.