May 2005 Issue
The Place for Pottery
Look no further than the potteries of southeast Ohio for the finest in handmade art.
The artistic growth in the Hocking Hills region is grounded in the longstanding pottery-making tradition of the area. That tradition continues within the clay belt among the potteries that keep this art form alive and well. A community that once relied on its reputation for the finest pottery available still provides treasure seekers with an abundance of the finest quality pieces from dedicated craftspeople.
In the interest of ensuring that the rich pottery heritage will remain throughout southeast Ohio, collaborations and new developments have begun. The Ceramic Association began 40 years ago with the Ohio Historical Society and continues to work with Hocking College in all facets of the National Ceramic Museum and Heritage Center. The museum offers galleries filled with distinctive and artistic works and much more. The five buildings include classrooms where artists and potters from the area are passing along skills honed from years of experience.
"We recruit teachers from among the potters and artists and pottery staff in the region, so our teachers are working artists," says Dale Hague, director of the Appalachian Pottery Guild.
The guild was formed by the museum to represent the interests of the potteries and potters in the region. It also functions to promote awareness of the difference between some of the mass-produced lines of some potteries and the handmade one-of-a-kind pieces created by potters. "I think of potters as artists and craftspeople," he says. "Even in a series, there are subtle variations on each [piece] because we're learning in the process."
Yet another role of the guild is the support it provides through events, including this year's launching of the Grand Weller Vase. Businesses in Perry, Muskingum and surrounding counties will be able to sponsor artists who will decorate these 6-foot-tall replicas of the Weller vase to be displayed throughout next year.
Proceeds from the auctioning of the vases will go to the development of the new Weller Pottery Museum in Zanesville. Director Phil LaDoucer has been a consultant with the National Ceramic Museum and several other historical and artistic sites throughout the state and the country. He hopes to have the museum, which is housed in an original 1894 Weller warehouse, ready for visitors by July, in time for the Crooksville-Roseville Pottery Festival.
A portion of the 170-foot-long building will be dedicated to teaching the art of ceramics. "[The museum] is basically trying to tie the Zanesville, Crooksville, Roseville area together as one ceramic belt because they all have this history in each area," says LaDoucer. He hopes to have major ceramicists working with apprentices, interns and students within the museum, as well as exhibits and displays of historic and contemporary pottery. "We're hoping that it grows into an Ohio artists' center," he says. "I think that's one of the things the town of Zanesville would certainly like to see."
Already in place is the foundation for an artists' community in downtown Zanesville, thanks, in part, to the efforts of world-class bronze sculptor Alan Cottrill. Cottrill has been commissioned by the likes of Ross Perot, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, California University of Pennsylvania and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and Spa in Pennsylvania. His 17,500-square-foot studio and gallery stands out in downtown Zanesville â€” just look for the 8-foot, 4-inch bronze figure of Chief Nemacolin that stands atop the building. Not too long ago, Cottrill was the only artist working and living downtown. These days, Zanesville has seen dozens of artists open studios and galleries, where the community has enjoyed monthly gallery hops. Cottrill also hopes to recruit leading national ceramic artists to utilize studio space in the Weller Pottery Museum.
The Zanesville, Crooksville, Roseville area is on its way to becoming an artistic capital for those seeking not only beautiful works of art, but also rich history, a close-knit community and a wealth of distinctive museums and studios. Pay a visit to some of the potteries in the region that are a part of the heritage that truly gives southeast Ohio its name as the original pottery country.
Fioriware Art Pottery
Though Fioriware has been in Zanesville for more than 15 years, it could still be called the new kid on the block in pottery country. Even so, Fioriware has garnered a following with its classic patterns. Retailers such as Williams Sonoma carry Fioriware pieces, and collectors have included celebrity customers such as Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler 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's 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 in the past year. The garden pottery features botanically correct, highly detailed designs, which were well received by garden centers at more than 20 trade shows last fall alone. "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 rich clay deposits to create a different kind of product. Accco makes industrial ceramics for the petro-chemical 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 ceramic engineer on staff keep Accco competitive with foreign manufacturers.
From functional dinnerware to novel items including piggy banks in all sizes, Buckeye Stoneware creates each piece by hand. "On an average piece of pottery that we manufacture from start to finish, we go through roughly 23 steps," says Ron Bucci, part owner. Buckeye is one of the pottery mainstays 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. Recently, she was approached to create reproductions of an original Bauer Pottery pot that was designed in the 1950s. Visitors are welcome to come in and paint their own pottery â€” perfect for parties or special gifts. Bucci adds that parents especially love receiving these items from their children. "We always say â€˜a gift of love is a gift for life,'" he notes. 740/454-2783; www.buckeyestoneware.com
Creating Early American reproduction stoneware for 25 years, Beaumont is a 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 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. 740/982-0065.
Hull 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 the 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 statuaries 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. "We have a pretty good following now." 800/860-6456; www.zanesvillepottery.com
When Ransbottom Pottery, the largest manufacturer of stoneware jars in the world, joined forces with Robinson Clay Products Company, makers of tile and brick products, in 1920, the combined entity began a venture based on quality and pride. Now Robinson Ransbottom produces garden and house wares that include pet feeders, giftware and tabletop products. The Zanesville facility keeps retailers across the country supplied with its handmade products that feature innovative packaging, ensuring the product's protection as well as allowing pieces to be stacked so that smaller retailers can keep them in stock. 740/697-7355; www.ransbottompottery.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 old 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.