Creations in Clay

Now showing at Lily’s Too: John Kostelic and the art of Iron Age pottery

Published online: Sep 19, 2017 Articles, East Idaho Business, Home And Garden, Videos Steve Smede
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For the recurring patrons of Lily’s Too on Park Ave., it’s obvious that when you walk in the door, you’re going to be looking at more than thrifty clothing options. The downtown consignment and vintage boutique is also known for its upscale selection of unique personal accessories and creative décor.

 As of late, it’s also serving as the perfect way station for an amazing collection of ancient-style clay pottery.

Step inside and you’ll find a display of creative clay-born containers, ranging from elegant coffee mugs to custom plates, barrel-sized flower pots and decorative sculptures. It’s all the work of veteran artisan John Kostelic.

 After a successful stint in the U.S. Army and another 15 years in the construction industry, Kostelic and his wife, Shirley, moved to the Reye’s National Seashore area in California. However, his interest in pottery-making was only piqued after visiting some family and friends in Montana.

“My aunt actually had a little shop where she taught slip-cast pottery – a low fire method produced with an electric kiln,” he said. “She interested me in making pots from scratch with a wheel, so I bought some material, had it machined, and ended up with two of my own potter’s wheels.”

For the first six months, the results were “kind of crude,” he said. “I wanted to see other potteries, so I went to the library and looked up all the books on it, especially Chinese pottery. The one that really set me off was a book on Iron Age art and work of the Celtic people, which had a very distinctive style. It was primarily for the military and small kingdoms throughout Europe. They all adopted the same art with signature swirling patterns. I just started doing stuff like that.”

Kostelic later obtained a book on early art from long before the Stone Age – basically, cave paintings.

“We actually went to Europe to see two of the caves for ourselves,” he said. “One of them – the Chauvet Cave in France -- was closed to the public and we could only see a replica of it.”

He added that apparently, even the carbon dioxide of people’s breath was contributing to the paintings’ deterioration. “I thought, what a shame that this will be gone someday. So I got further into that style with my pottery, and started making slabs of stoneware, fired at 2,400 degrees.”

The result is a product that that not only holds true to its traditional style, but is also very durable.

“You could take one of these pieces and bury it, and if it wasn’t broken by something falling on it or such, it could last a million years,” he said.

In all, Kostelic practiced his craft for 26 years.

“During that time, I would set aside some pieces I really liked. Then when we moved here to Idaho 20 years ago, I packed them all up and brought them with me. That’s why you see them here today. They represent the very best of what I could do.”

For viewing and purchase inquiries of Kostelic’s work, contact Lily’s Too at 542-1156, visit the store’s page on Facebook or stop by 318 Park Avenue.

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