Citrus Heights Sentinel Logo

Meet John Klunder, the Citrus Heights man who works wonders with ceramics

John Klunder stands next to some of his ceramics at his Citrus Heights home. // R. Friesen

*This is a premium article accessible only to The Sentinel’s paid subscribers, who make our local news coverage possible.

By Rylie Friesen-
John Klunder, a local Citrus Heights artist, has been recognized with an award for his work in ceramics.

The 73-year-old won a Juror’s Award in the Sculpture category for PBS’s upcoming annual KVIE Art Auction, and has been featured on the televised auction before.

Klunder grew up in New York City, and moved to California in 1968 while serving in the Air Force. He decided to stay, and lived in Fair Oaks for 17 years before moving to Citrus Heights, where he’s lived for over 30 years.

Klunder has been involved in ceramics for the past decade and owns a business called “Happy Cat Pottery.” Before that, he was a remodeling contractor for 40 years.

While this is the first time Klunder has been recognized for ceramics, he has received prior recognition for some of his photography work. He used to be the president and manager of the New ArtWorks Gallery, previously in Fair Oaks.

He told The Sentinel in an interview last month that he was inspired by a woman he was remodeling for who did ceramics. She had an extra kiln she was getting rid of, and let him take it.

He also was inspired by the 1990 movie Ghost, starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. The actress plays an artist, and the movie shows multiple scenes of her creating pottery.

“When I saw that, I told my wife that that was something I wanted to do,” Klunder said. “Sometime, somewhere, I am going to do that.”

Citrus Heights musician gets creative to continue performances during pandemic

To acquaint himself with the craft, he took some pottery classes at Sierra College. The instructor expected each student to produce four pieces of work, but by the end of the class he produced 22 pieces.

Klunder’s Raku Pottery work is what won him the Juror’s Award. The process involves heating up the pottery to 1400 degrees Fahrenheit, which takes about 20 minutes.

John Klunder

Once heated, Klunder picks the pottery up with a pair of tongs and sets it on a table, where lays on the horse hairs and feathers. If any pieces do not melt onto the pot, he burns it off with a blowtorch. It takes around a half-hour to cool down.

Klunder said he gets all of his horse hair from his neighbor, and gathers feathers wherever he can find them.

“I did have a rooster at one time, but unfortunately that rooster became food for a hawk,” he said.

Klunder is hopeful the award will help him sell more pieces through KVIE, and maybe even expand his products to the East Coast. He said he’s been in contact with a gallery located in Port Chester, New York.

“Right now it’s in a nowhere place, because they haven’t made a decision. But with this award, that puts me at a different level, and it could provide the potential of them accepting some of my work to sell out there.”

A lot of the work he does is custom, and he enjoys the challenge of coming up with something unique while still making what the client asked for.

Prices range depending on what the product is. Chip-and-dip bowls are generally $70, mugs are generally $25, and berry bowls are generally $35.

“It pays for The Habit,” he joked about the restaurant. “It buys me glazes and tools and stuff like that. It helps me stay busy.”

Klunder also makes glazed pots, where he brush-paints the pots and heats them up to create colorful designs: “The unique thing about it is, when you’re painting them, the glazes themselves don’t look like what they’re going to look like when they’re fired.”

He keeps a notebook with sketches of all his work so he can try to recreate it. He’s also hoping to write a book to help other people interested in glazing pottery.

“There are a ton of books on glazing, and I own a portion of them,” he says. “But not one of them tells you a specific glaze to use to accomplish what it is in the picture.”

Currently, Klunder has been putting focus into his farm, due to it being growing season. He grows produce out of his backyard that he sells to neighbors and others who stops by. What he doesn’t sell he donates to local food lockers.

“Somebody told me, when you retire, you’re going to die. I said, when I retire, I won’t have any time to die.”

The 39th annual Art Auction has selected 260 works of art from California to showcase in a live three day event. It will be broadcast on the KVIE TV channel and website, according to a press release sent to The Sentinel.

Klunder explained that each artist gets six minutes on air, where their art is displayed and promoted. Viewers call in to place their bids, and if the bids exceed the artist’s suggested price, it is called a “Bell-Ringer.” Out of the four times he and his wife submitted work, they all achieved that status.

The auction airs Oct. 2 from 7 to 10 p.m.; Oct. 3 from noon to 10 p.m.; and Oct. 4 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Like local news? Sign up for The Sentinel’s free email edition and get two emails a week with all local news and no spam, ever. (Click here)