Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Favorite Pot

This is my favorite pot. It's a two gallon salt-glazed jar made in Hartford, CT. I've liked salt-glazed wares for some time. As far as ceramic history goes, it wasn't that long ago (circa 1400 CE) that an unknown German potter from the Rhineland introduced salt into kiln probably on accident and low and behold it makes glaze on the pots in the kiln. This technique became hugely popular in production pottery since it eliminated the step of glazes the pots before loading and firing. It showed up in the American colonies in the early 1700s and became the dominant utilitarian houseware.
This pot came out of a house in North Chester, MA that was in my grandmother's family since it was built around 1805. It was among several jars and jugs in the house, but just stood out with it's tall stature and high belly.
The mark on the front says, "G. Benton & L. Stewart, Hartford." The other week during open studio tour I stopped by Mark Shapiro's spot with this pot in tow. Knowing Mark as a potter with a serious interest in New England historical pots I thought he might help me find a little bit about it. He consulted Lura Woodkins Watkins book and discovered that Benton and Stewart were retired sea captains who bought a pottery in Hartford and ran it for couple of years, around 1815 or so, and then sold it to the potter who was actually making the pots.
I love the rich brown color to it, so many early American salt-glazed pots are grey but perhaps the clay had more iron to it or perhaps it was in a reducing pocket of the kiln. There are a couple subtle flashing marks where it stood next pots in the fire. The handles are round and laid flat against the shoulder and neck with some cobalt and the attachment.
I've tried in the past to make pots like it, but haven't yet nailed the form. So far it remains as a challenge to shoot for, but for now I'm happy just to look at it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Don Meno

Sometimes just when you think you know all the potters who live around you one sneaks under your radar. This summer I met a potter whose been 'round these parts for a whole mess of years and somehow our circles didn't converge until just now. He's built a sweet little Olsen fast fire wood kiln near his studio in Brattleboro. This past weekend he invited me to take part in the loading and firing of it and here's some pictures of it.

These two pieces came out of the kiln a couple days ago. The vase on the left was a refired pot from Penland, it's got that Mitchfield clay which really did a lot with the modest two pounds of salt. The bottle on the right is a bit of some stencil work I've been playing around with of late.