SAN ANTONIO — Jack Boyle loves throwing things — bowls, mugs and platters. He's been doing it for more than 30 years.
The kind of throwing Boyle does is with clay on a potter's wheel and his skill earned him a spot as one of 13 charter members of the newly formed Florida West Coast Ceramic Society, headed by Peter Streit of Rising Sun Pottery in Tampa.
The group will host a sale and pottery studio tour, the first "Tour de Clay of Tampa Bay," from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Boyle's studio, at 11903 Curley Road in San Antonio, will be a final stop on the Saturday tour with a kiln opening at 4 p.m.
"Every kiln opening is like Christmas morning. You never can be sure what you will find," says Boyle, whose passion for clay started in Tampa.
Boyle walked into a pottery class at the University of South Florida in the mid 1970s and what he saw influenced the rest of his life.
"The studio teacher was making a round, beautiful vase. I knew that's what I wanted to do," Boyle says.
"I wanted to throw," he explains, emphasizing the term used for plopping a chunk of raw clay onto a rapidly turning wheel and, with wet, muddy hands, shaping it into a piece of pottery, one that often brings a sizeable profit.
"In that first class I think I was the only one who bought my own wheel and kiln," says Boyle, adding that he learned as much, or more, from fellow students than he did from teachers.
His San Antonio studio is filled with shiny blue and brown glazed mugs, just right for a hot or cold drink. Nearby are large plates and bowls perfect for that favorite soup or cereal.
Each took shape in Boyle's hands, the only patterns being those in his head.
Much of a potter's work is reliant on others, from those who mine and mix the clay to those who package and ship the materials for glazes. Final products rely on electricity and gas to power the large kilns that take the pottery pieces from raw clay to finished products.
Boyle buys clay from an Asheville, N.C., company, because he trusts the quality.
"I tried another company where the price was a bit lower, but every single item came out of the kiln cracked. It was very depressing," Boyle says. He returned to the tried-and-true supplier.
"You've never in total control in this work," Boyle said.
Boyle has been working at his San Antonio studio since 1977. He and his wife, Deborah, a longtime Zephyrhills High art teacher, stumbled onto San Antonio's rural rolling hills.
A short time later, with wheel and kiln, Jack settled into the studio on Curley Road. That's where you find him most days except when he's away at art shows.
Boyle does about 15 shows a year, never sure how they will go, though he's come to recognize shows that draw larger buying crowds. With the present strained economy, even potters are having to adjust.
"My sales are down somewhat, but you just readjust and make things less expensive," says Boyle, who has "retro priced" some items to what they were two years ago.
In addition to the creation of clay pieces, Boyle's studio is home to pottery classes that stay filled, with only occasional openings for new students. Boyle also has created instructional DVDs and says his head is filled with many other plans.
Boyle's first-quality pottery will be for sale Saturday at the studio tour, combined with Boyle's annual holiday open house and party from 5 to 8 p.m.
Live music organized by Dennis Devine and free light refreshments will highlight the holiday event.
Featured artists at this year's open house will be guest clay artist David Kastner from New Port Richey and McKenzie Smith from Ridge Manor, both charter members of the ceramic society.
A multimedia artist, Kastner's work has appeared in exhibitions in Paris and will be shown at the Tokyo International Forum in January.
His ceramic work focuses on sculptural forms and traditional Japanese tea ware.
Smith is a nationally recognized artist and much sought-after ceramic workshop instructor.