Nan Rothwell

Over the years your pots end up looking like you. The pots I tend to keep and love seem  to be lumpy but good-natured, warm-colored, soft, not dramatic but comfortable and generous. I attended Harrow in England where I worked exclusively in earthenware. I was in love with galena, the warm, honey-colored glaze. But making lead-glazed earthenware in the United States seemed to be out of the question, so I turned to salt. Now salt glaze offers me the same kind of softness and depth that attracted me to galena. When my husband and I were married we built an envelope house overlooking the Rockfish River. I now have a studio with a separate kiln shed connected by a ramp. The kiln is a 65 cu ft propane-fired downdraft salt kiln. Having a child has made me more efficient. I work fewer hours but produce about the same number of pots in twenty hours a week as I used to in fifty. My son makes me appreciate being a potter more than ever. I've been a potter for fifteen years and had to put up with many interruptions. But it has never gone away. There are a lot of talented women potters in the field. I'm not sure just where sexism starts, but you can see it most clearly in universities where women are underrepresented. I haven't tried to get into "The World of American Potters" - I'm just doing my own thing out here. But the one prejudice I'm most aware of is that against functional potters, male or female. Attention, grant money, and so forth, goes to nonfunctional potters. Functional potters are not treated with the respect they're due.


Kevin Crowe

I never thought I'd be adding more verbal compost to the functional/ nonfunctional debate - but here it is. Whatever position you take on the debate reflects the way you see the world in general. This view is the foundation upon which we build temples to our sense of self-worth, and consequently we spend a lot of energy defending our positions against constant erosion. The nonfunctional potter/artist often believes that only expressions of individual experience, a unique voice, is capable of transcending the commonplace and contributing to the heaven of art. Often this attempt at transcendence is so personal to the point of being confessional and thereby isolates the creator from meaningful communication. The functional craftsperson sees herself/himself as a part of something larger than personal expression and is rooted in a sense of continuity and connectedness. The danger for the craftsperson is that she/he often becomes an echo of a tradition rather than a vital participant in its growth. Neither viewpoint is more truthful than a speeding bullet, and both of them suffer when battle lines are drawn. I am a functional potter because of the way I am wired. A sense of community and of ritual and awareness of "the patterns that connect" are important to my sense of well-being. They are at the root of why I make pots. At thirty-six, it's a relief to feel this sense of continuity with potters everywhere, to realize that this is not a race. There is no place to go, just do your best, keep the soup stirred, and pass it on. Even though I'm a self-taught potter, I don't recommend this as a practical path to pottery. Nothing can take the place of a dynamic master/apprenticeship relationship, but this is a rarity in our culture. The term "self-taught" carries a lot of baggage in the West, conjuring up a person who absorbs a talent and aesthetic out of the air and stands alone against the sun. Not so with me. Leach and Hamada turned on my switch ten years ago, and even with all the influences past and present which have opened my eyes, I credit Leach and particularly Hamada with the heart of my work. I don't care that Hamada was a millionaire, and I don't care what he did with his navel lint. He made pots which continue to take my breath away. His pots had a direct, elegant softness suspended in perfect tension - and that is what I'll be after the rest of my life.


Trew and Tony Bennett

Trew: I want to do with pottery what I want to do with my life: simplify and intensify. I discovered that a lot of the pottery I made for sale was not what I preferred to use in my own kitchen. Orange-squeezers and casserole covers were not in my style. So I started making only pottery I like to use and cook with. This changed the pottery I made to sell. Basically I make tableware, balancing this with large urns and bowls. I love those shapes and work in this direction mostly from a feeling and love for ceremony. In tableware I like cups without handles and plates that are simple. Pottery has to be a part of the ritual of people sharing food together. All life is a mirror; we see reflections of ourselves. The pottery that has long inspired us has been the anonymous, unsigned market pottery, such as the pottery for local use we have seen on our trips to Mexico. We found these to be like the early native American pots of 1200-1800 AD. These early water and storage jars are similar to the early Khymer, Laotian, and Vietnamese pots I have looked to for inspiration. These were made by farmers to store goods. They have a gracefulness and unity which came from working in the earth and growing food. Their integrity and continuity totally inspires me. Although we don't now live in a society with those needs, I still look to them as models.

Tony: Our studio is a twenty-eight-sided yurt designed by an architect from Maine named Bill Coppert. It was constructed in about five weeks one summer. Being in it gives one a feeling of circular motion. It suits us and our pottery well. We fire with wood in the traditional way, seeking ash accumulation. Woodfire forces you to simplify your forms and aesthetics. We find ourselves linked to the demands of the process. Even though a two- or three-day firing is relatively inefficient, the ancient ritual of woodfiring is appealing and the end product always unique. Basically it expresses our feelings about the way we want to live. Firing with wood, however, has changed the kind of ware we now make. Whereas formerly we had developed for fifteen years a completely glazed functional line of ware which our clientele had come to expect, now we make less. We will have to find alternative markets if we are to continue to make a living from pots, and may have to sell through galleries. This disturbs me because it puts one more person in the middle of the process, thereby increasing the price and making it a more precious - perhaps artificial-commodity. But that may be necessary. You get to the point where you can't do it all.