The Wizard of Clay: A magical experience
BRISTOL — We’re off to see the Wizard... The Wonderful Wizard of Clay.
Nestled in the hills of Bristol, just south of State Route 20A on Ontario County Road 32 is the Wizard’s “castle.” It’s easy to spot the unique complex, a series of seven geodesic domes, build by the Wizard himself.
After walking through the retail store, the visitor enters the studio, where The Wizard himself might be greeting guests. Jim Kozlowski or his son Jamie may be sitting at the potter’s wheel performing a feat of magic. Instead of a magic wand, the potter uses his hands to spin the clay into a masterpiece. The workshop uses over 100,000 lbs. of clay a year.
Just like wizards of legends, the mystical secrets must be passed down to an apprentice and so it is with the Kozlowski family. There are now two expert wizards and one apprentice.
The story begins with Jim, who 46 years ago, as a college freshman at Buffalo State, began doing pottery.
After earning a B.S and M.S. in fine art, he went on to teach art for 12 years at Greece-Athena School.
Every day he practiced his skills and finally quit teaching. His wife, Lois, told him that if he started the business she would be the manager and The Wizard of Clay came into being, 29 years ago.
Jamie Kozlowski learned from his father the art of pottery making. He has worked full-time in the studio since 1994.
Ancient wizards were known to use alchemy, the transmutation of common metals into gold and silver. Jamie and Jim use a secret formula to produce crystalline glaze pottery, which has been featured on HGTV.
During the firing, actual crystals form from zinc and silica, creating sparkling color changes when captured in the light. Silver, ruby, black, teal, cranberry and lavender are some of the vibrant colors highlighted in the work. Jamie’s crystalline pottery is also sold in 80 retail outlets around the world.
Bristoleaf ® is an exclusive product created by the Wizards.
After the pottery is shaped and the excess clay is trimmed from the bottom, real leaves are pressed onto the soft clay. When the piece is dry, it is fired in the kiln and the leaves are burned off, an imprint — much like a fossil — is left in the piece. The item is then glazed. Jim says he got the idea for Bristoleaf® when he saw an old Chinese pot.
The leaves are easy to find, as the 10,000 square foot complex adjoins the Bristol Nature Trail. Some of the 10 employees search for strawberry, wild grape, raspberry, oak, ash, maple and plant leaves from the hillside to use as motifs.
During a tour Jim stops to play a little on the unique pottery drums. Goat skins are stretched over the different sized instruments to produce haunting sounds.He explains the unusual primitive designs are copies of drawings done over 20,000 years ago and were found in 1994 in the Chauvet Cave in France. He said working on these pieces brought him a special feeling for the ancient artists.
The apprentice Wizard is 8 -year-old Carver James Kozlowski, who says he too wants to be a Wizard of Clay.
Grandfather Jim proudly relates that Carver already is selling his wares in the store.
The money he makes is divided three ways. Carver must pay for his materials, save some money and then he gets to spend some. Carver says he learned to make pots at age 2 or 3.
During the summer, Jim says there is a lot of traffic. A United States map and a world map are dotted with pins left by visitors from around the world, who are eager to see the Wizards in action.
When asked why he chose to build the geodesic structures, Jim said, “Build it and they will come.”
Actually, the buildings are bright and airy and show off the pieces well. He learned about the domes in an architecture class.
The Wizard of Clay offers items from functional to whimsical. Mugs, bowls, casseroles, pie plates and more; are all microwave and dishwasher safe. Fun pieces include a mug with a tongue sticking out, a sitting pig with a nose ring silly looking people, frogs and cats and a mouse cheese shaker marked “parmousen cheese.”
Oil lamps, picture frames, garden pottery and a teddy bear cup with a tiny bear in the bottom, all make delightful, unusual gifts.
The magic of the Wizards can be seen seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. year round, except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
Visit on the web at email@example.com or call 585-229-2980.
Story and Photos by Loujane Johns