A few of the many, many shelve of pottery books in the author's home in Ashford, Connecticut. Photograph by Joseph Szalay, 2018.No potter is entirely self-taught. We learn from every other potter we meet. I started with excellent teachers, some lessons with Lois Eldridge at her home and then a stint at Wesleyan Potters with Betsy Tanzer. But both were more than an hour away from my home at the time in rural Connecticut. I drove a dilapidated 1959 VW bug. My youngest child was not yet in school. It was a struggle.

One afternoon, I was driving home with a few of my poorly made pots and my four-year-old son, Aaron, in the back of the bug. Aaron complained that it was getting smoky. “Mom,” he said in his quiet voice, “the car is on fire.” I looked in the rearview mirror. Yes, we had a fire! Terrified, I pulled off the road and got him out. Apparently, the battery had shorted, igniting the coir stuffing in the back seat. Once I was sure Aaron was okay, I wrangled the seat out of the car and stomped out the smoldering fire. I carried a couple of the pots as we set off to get help but left the rest behind. This was the early seventies. We did not have cell phones. While we were gone, the pots, bad as they were, were stolen, which, in a way was encouraging. However, I knew that my treks to classes were over.

Yet, I had only begun to learn. There was so much I didn’t know, couldn’t do, hadn’t mastered. At home, I had a Lockerbie kick-wheel, an unheated work room, some clay, and only rudimentary skills. So, I turned to books. And thus, you could say, I actually benefited from many hundreds of teachers.

Potters write a remarkable number of books and magazine articles. Archaeologists, art historians and critics, architects, horticulturists, scientists, and others also write about ceramics. There are how-to books, books about antiques, memoirs, biographies, histories, travel books, books on various specialty topics, and even fiction and children’s books.

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