May 2006 Issue
Craftsmanship Thrives in the Clay Corridor
Hocking College has taken a leadership role in revitalizing southeast Ohio's pottery industry.
When Dale Hague hops in his van and heads from Crooksville to Nelsonville, you can bet his journey has something to do with pottery. As coordinator of the Appalachian Pottery Guild (www.potteryguild.org), Dale's responsibility is to promote, support and advance the quality of Guild members' work.
The region's pottery industry has a long and rich history. The industry grew out of the farmer's need for inexpensive containers and tableware. Often owned by farmers, these potteries were called "bluebird" operations because production started when the bluebirds returned from the south and the clay could be mined. By 1850, about 41 different potteries operated within a four-mile radius of the present site of the National Ceramic Museum and Heritage Center on St. Rte. 93 between Crooksville and Roseville in northern Perry County.
According to Dr. Roy Palmer, senior vice president at Hocking College who oversees the Perry County Pottery Campus, "Most people tend to believe pottery is gone from Perry County and this is just not true. No doubt it isn't as prominent as it was several decades ago, but probably as many as 500 people earn a living in the pottery industry."
Dale Hague, a potter himself, stays abreast of what's going on in the world of pottery. While much of his work is done in the Guild Studio in Crooksville, he often travels to Nelsonville, at the far southern end of the pottery corridor that extends as far north as Dresden. Nelsonville is home to Hocking College, which offers the only associate degree industrial ceramics program in the country. In 2001, the college took over operation of the National Ceramic Museum and Heritage Center. With acquisition of the museum, the next step was to develop the Decorative Ceramic Institute, where the art of pottery decorating is learned.
Nelsonville's reputation as an arts community is growing steadily, due in part to the leadership of potters such as Jennifer Tvorik L'Heureux, owner of Nelsonville Pottery and Art Supply.
L'Heureux is working with Hague to re-establish pottery chats for Guild members. The chats, providing opportunities for potters from the region to gather in her shop for a couple of hours of networking, are scheduled each quarter. But, L'Heureux says, it's really more than that.
"The chats provide an opportunity for sharing ideas, discussing techniques and learning about new products. We also critique each other's work. Sometimes it's just nice to talk with someone who shares your passion."
A link is also being established between Foothills School of American Crafts on Nelsonville's Public Square and potters and artists associated with the Guild. Foothills, through its affiliation with Hocking College, will host one of 100, 7-foot-tall reproduction Weller vases through the Weller Vase in Place (VIP) project.
Borrowing from the displays of pig, cow and penguin art in other cities, the VIP project will install vases at locations in the pottery corridor from Nelsonville to Dresden.
According to Dr. Palmer, the vases are being produced at the Guild studio and weigh approximately 200 pounds each. "Each will be hand decorated by area artists, and locations for each will be chosen by sponsoring businesses. Brochures will be available, describing the work and the artists who painted them. We hope they'll all be in place by July, and in September 2007 we'll sell them at an auction," Palmer explains. Proceeds will benefit Weller Pottery Museum, the Appalachian Pottery Guild and the Artist Colony of Zanesville.
In collaboration with Zanesville sculptor Alan Cottrill, Crooksville potter Hague and the artists decorating the large vases, some sponsors have commissioned smaller ceramic versions of their Weller Inspired Vases. The first such sponsor and the originator of the idea is Mary Ellen Weingartner of Ohio Pottery at Norwich. The New Hull Pottery, located near Roseville, has contracted to make the smaller vases, which will be available in the National Ceramic Museum and Heritage Center gift shop and other retail locations. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the small versions will benefit the Weller Museum.
With pottery artists, galleries, classes, workshops and chats, and a guild to keep everyone motivated, the future for pottery along the clay corridor -extending from Dresden in northern Muskingum County, through Zanesville and Roseville and Crooksville in Perry County, to Nelsonville in northern Athens County - looks promising.
Potteries in the Clay Corridor
Fioriware Art Pottery
Fioriware's classic patterns are sold by retailers such as Williams Sonoma, and grace the tables of celebrities including John Travolta, Bette Midler, Carly Simon and Hillary Clinton. The company's new line of personally interpretive, limited-edition Redware is hand-signed by its creator and Fioriware owner, Maddy Fraioli. She and her husband, Howard Peller, have made a name for their functional and decorative pieces within the pottery region and beyond. "All of us try hard to offer our local community the best product we can that is American made," says Fraioli. 740/454-7400; www.fioriware.com
Burley Clay Pottery
The folks at Burley Clay have seen an enthusiastic response to their new line by Pam Ballard. The garden pottery features botanically correct, highly detailed designs, which have been well received by garden centers. "The sales we do are only to independent garden centers and nurseries and gift shops," says Bobbi Bennett, vice president of sales. "We're not dealing with mass merchants of the world at all. We're the alternative for the independent business people, and they love that." Each of the distinctive birdbaths, planters and decorative pieces with the company's unique finish is created in the Ohio factory. 740/697-0221
Accco (American Ceramic & Clay Company)
Accco shares its facilities and some of its employees with Burley Clay Pottery, but uses the region's clay deposits to create a different kind of product. Accco makes industrial ceramics for the petrochemical industry, utilizing the clay to manufacture ball-like structures that are used to support a layer of catalyst materials in the towers where petroleum is processed. The bulk of Accco's customers are refineries in the Houston area. The quality and testing of material and a civil engineer on staff keep Accco competitive.
If you're a pottery aficionado, chances are you're familiar with Buckeye Stoneware. From functional dinnerware to novelty items including piggy banks in all sizes, Buckeye Stoneware creates each piece by hand. "On an average piece of pottery ... we go through roughly 23 steps," says Ron Bucci, part owner. Buckeye is a pottery mainstay in Zanesville and is constantly turning out new offerings. Ron's wife Mary Ann creates herb designs as well as buckeye-leaf patterns for those who want to exhibit their Ohio pride. Visitors are welcome to come in and paint their own pottery - perfect for parties or special gifts. 740/454-2783; www.buckeyestoneware.com
Creating Early American reproduction stoneware for 25 years, Beaumont is a pottery mainstay of Crooksville's pottery industry. Roger and Margie Beaumont's retail store is the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind figurines and jars, or to pick up the complete line of dinnerware. Each piece is hand-decorated and a unique piece of art. Beaumont's pitchers are a popular item for serving beverages or for holding a colorful bouquet. 740/982-0065Hull Pottery Enterprises
Locals know that Hull Pottery is an old name in the clay belt, but that its plant burned down in the 1990s. Now, Hull is assuming the Alpine Pottery plant and store, where both Alpine and Hull pottery lines will be carried. Some of the new items will include piggy banks, cookie jars, Hull Pottery plaques and a vase with a design by Leslie Cope, a well-known Roseville painter. The store has been refurbished to make room for new products that are being created all the time. Hull is also one of the only potteries to offer personalized pieces to its customers. 866/579-9400; www.hullpotteryinc.com
Zanesville Pottery & China
Peruse the three buildings that make up Zanesville Pottery & China for everything from birdbaths and kitchen gadgets to statuary and stemware. Family-owned and operated since 1953, Zanesville Pottery & China is a favorite of small greenhouses and nurseries for its unique selection. Every summer, it hosts the Zanesville Pottery Festival, where local potters and dealers gather to show their works to visitors who come for a glimpse of the finest of pottery country, as well as the fun festival atmosphere. "About 80 percent of our customers are from out of our area," says owner Kim Castor, who adds, "We have a pretty good following now." 800/860-6456; www.zanesvillepottery.com
New Burley Winter Pottery Company
The original Burley Winter Pottery operated from 1872 to 1935. These days, New Burley Winter Pottery Company carries on the heritage of the well-known pottery in its original plant. The Swingle family owns and operates New Burley, creating the same unique stoneware made from locally mined clay. Original molds found in the old building are used with new and different glazes to make "New Burley Winter" pottery. These pieces, along with some new designs, represent the company's mission to preserve the history of pottery and appreciate the past, while embracing the future of this unique art form. 740/982-1302; www.newburleywinterpottery.com
Ohio Pottery, Norwich
Awaken your senses at Ohio Pottery. Enter the store and be greeted by the sweet scent of crystal potpourri. Glance around and feast your eyes on an amazing 7-foot vase decorated in a traditional floral pattern. The loft is filled to the brim with Ohio Stoneware "seconds" including crockery, garden ware and pet feeders. In business 49 years, this specialty store offers a friendly, nostalgic atmosphere with many contemporary products and a sprinkling of antiques. Explore the great selection of Fiesta Dinnerware just waiting to adorn a table set for family and friends. 740/872-3137
Ohio Stoneware is located on the scenic Muskingum River in Zanesville, Ohio, and is operating in the plant formerly owned by Robinson Ransbottom Pottery and Zanesville Stoneware. In business since July 2005, Ohio Stoneware is known for quality stoneware crocks, pet feeders, flowerpots, birdbaths and officially licensed Ohio State University pottery. Ohio Stoneware is strictly wholesale, but can be found at retailers nationwide. The local retail outlet is Ohio Pottery in Norwich. 740/450-4415; www.ohiostoneware.com