ALACHUA – In a peaceful wooded area just outside Alachua sits a neat-as-a-pin, well-designed studio that belongs to an internationally known potter and researcher on the use of crystalline glazes for pottery.

Tilton Pottery houses the studio and showroom of John Tilton, 69, creator of one-of-a-kind distinctive pottery. His porcelain pots feature mainly crystalline art glazes, zinc crystals and copper red.

“Crystalline glazes and crystals are symbols for growth,” Tilton said. “I want my pots to seem organic and timeless, and the crystalline glazes really complement those elements.”

Tilton accidentally stumbled upon pottery as a profession in 1968. His wife at the time asked him to check out a pottery course for her at Reitz Union at the University of Florida.

“At the time I was working on my Ph.D. in Mathematics, and was in my third year of graduate school at the University of Florida,” he said. After talking with the pottery instructor, he became interested himself. When his wife took the course, he decided to join her.

By the time he completed the course, the instructor suggested he take a ceramics class at UF.

“I just kind of kept taking ceramics classes, and at one point, it just seemed to overtake me,” he said. “I found that I was more interested in doing that than I was in doing mathematics.”

“Up until then, I had always thought I would continue with math, but it ended up not happening that way.” Ultimately, he obtained his M.F.A. Ceramics at the University of South Florida in 1972.

Ceramics was something tangible that he could hand to people and that they could actually understand, he said. “When I had to defend my Master’s Thesis, there were only eight people there. That was the number of people in Gainesville that could understand me. Yes, I was working on something that could be incredible, but it is not something people could understand,” he said.

He admits that pottery hasn’t been the kind of financial success he would have had as a mathematician, but he says he hasn’t regretted the choice at all.

His research into the best techniques, firing temperatures and development of specialized tools he uses to perfect his use of crystalline glazes led to a presentation on matte crystalline glazes at a conference in Kansas City, Mo., in 2005.

Despite having his work has been featured in 12 publications throughout his 38-year career, Tilton remains humble.

His work is displayed in the collections of the Walt Disney Corporation, the Sun Bank of Orlando and the Lowe Art Museum in Miami.

Tilton has decided to limit his exposure at outside shows and festivals this year.

“Traveling to shows is exhausting and time-consuming,” he said. “I would rather spend my time on my pottery.” He is planning to concentrate his marketing efforts on conducting a couple of shows each year at his studio at the Temple of the Universe in Alachua and hopes to get more exposure through the internet.

“I like to have events here at my studio. People who visit can feel the energy of the place and feel the spirit of where I’ve made the artwork,” he said.

Tilton attracts a substantial number of people to his studio, according to a collector of his art.

“When John holds a show at his studio, people come in droves, even from out of state,” said Sandra Matasick, Gainesville jewelry artist and collector of Tilton’s work. “They just don’t come to buy one pot,” she said. “They buy several of his pieces at one time.”

Tilton believes his type of pottery does not lend itself as well to art festivals, although he has done plenty of them in the past. Locally, his work has been shown for years at the Spring Arts Festival in Gainesville and was chosen to be the poster and T-shirt art for the festival in 2006. His work has also appeared locally at the Downtown Art Festival and the Gainesville Fine Arts Association’s Fall Show.

“At a show, you have to display something flashy that will catch the viewer’s eye quickly as they walk by,” he said. “I am not making pieces that jump out at you.”

Although his art is decorative, Tilton said some people need to sit with the piece quietly for a few minutes in order to begin to see the spirit of the work. After years of really strong commitment to a chosen art, he believes the artwork takes on the shape of the spirit.

“I think if I’m able to make it where it has spirit, and the spirit is flowing through me into it as I create it, then the link is available also to the right person that is looking at it,” he said. “The spirit of it will make them see it in a different way.”

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