Sunday, March 24, 2013

Post-Show Blues

 For the past few months I have been busily prepping for the Catawba Valley Pottery Show. Firing the big kiln beast every month has been a bear!
This most recent firing was one of my best. The photo above is what the kiln looked like when I loaded it.
The photo above is what it looked like when I opened it up. At first I thought it was a little heavy on the salting, but I am pleased with the results.
Getting ready for a show is like riding a roller coaster. There's the buildup of exhausting excitement and nervousness for not knowing whether the kilns are going to turn out. There might be a few great turns that put butterflies in your stomach, and then the final show you have been prepping for is like the end of the roller coaster, that final decline, with an abrupt stop at the end. You watch your pieces go home like the people leaving the roller coaster carts, and then it is completely over.

It was all worth it to see my pots all sitting together and going to good homes. Most of my highly decorated blue dishes, mugs, and flowerpots disappeared at the show! So I suppose I don't have the blues after all, I'm just left with my brown wares.Thank you to everyone who has given me moral support in all my crazy endeavors, to those who came to the show, and to the potters who kept me company and gave me breaks! I am looking forward to next year and another big roller coaster ride!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kentucky Stoneware Meets Colonial Williamsburg

Antiques Forum representing the Summer Institute at MESDA

 Yours truly had the pleasure recently of presenting at Colonial Williamsburg's Antiques Forum on the topic of my Summer Institute project I worked on last summer with the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA). My research last summer revolved around these three pieces of stoneware pictured below in the collection of the museum.

Isaac Thomas churn, dated 1836. Courtesy, MESDA.
 The first two pieces were made in Maysville, Kentucky. Above, is a large stoneware churn in the shop of Isaac Thomas. Not one of the earliest Maysville pottery families, but the Thomas family may have been the longest in production and had ties with other pottery families of the area. Below is a piece made in the shop of brothers John Wood and Ezekial Wood. There are few pots that I have turned up yet to be identified or marked as being made by J&E Wood.

Crock made by J&E Wood, dated 1845. Courtesy, MESDA.
 Below is a simple crock with an illustrative handwritten note across the top reading, "Made by Geo.(George) Swingle Junr./Mrs. E. Cups/June 9th 1827/Vanceburg, Kentucky". If only other historical potteries wrote the details of the dates and places on them! George Swingle, Junior is a harder case to crack for me, as no other pieces than this one have been identified as his manufacture. The dates of his pottery production are not known, but this piece is the earliest known dated piece of Kentucky stoneware. Very exciting.

Image of SW Pennsylvania potters transporting pots via flatboat. Shaltenbrand.
 Aside from talking about the production points (which I hope to share in a future blog post) and the possible uses of the pieces (all likely kitchen-related), one of the greatest aspects is the movement of the pottery made by these potters. I should say that while this may apply to George Swingle's work, it is not known for sure. So, I refer this bit to Thomas and the Wood brothers. It turns out that one of the Wood brothers was a flatboater. Pictured above and in detail below is an image of Southwestern Pennsylvania potters transporting pots via flatboat. One of the early transportation devices along the Ohio and Mississippi River, materials were transported from Kentucky down to New Orleans and beyond.
 Prior to the development of the steamboat in the second quarter of the 19th-century, those who went by flatboat from Kentucky returned through the Natchez Trace, by foot.
Steamboat with pots lined up. Shaltenbrand.
 This is a great image of a steamboat with pots stacked beside it for shipping. The steamboat allowed travelers and merchandize to travel down river and up river.
 While I have not located any pieces of the Wood brothers further South, I have come across pieces made by Isaac Thomas, specifically for merchants along the Mississippi River. Frontier capitalism at its best! Below is a piece made for a merchant A.L. Yeiser in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Another piece I have seen reads, "Bayou Sara, LA." I hope to find out more about these connections down the Mississi
This project has gone beyond just the Summer Institute, and I am pursuing further research which I hope to find a chance to share soon!