Interview by Zoe Allison, recorded by Nathalie Worthington
Z – How long have you been in Chatham County?
J – I’ve been here since 1967.
Z – Did you join the guild right away?
J – No, it did not exist 50 years ago.
Z – I understand you’ve been in the guild a long time?
J – Yes, I joined the guild 20 years ago.
Z – What brought you to the area?
J – We came in 1967 so that my husband could take a job at UNC and so that we could have a farm and horses. Our road (Collins Mountain) and Crawford Dairy were dirt roads back then. Ours was not paved until 1992. Until then I wasn’t doing much business out here. I started making pottery and went to a lot of crafts fairs. i sold most of my work at fairs in Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh, and Greensboro. Currently about a third of my customers are from Chatham County, since the area has become better known.
Z – What other shows do you do besides the tour?
J – I have a spring sale here at my studio.
Z – Do you have other origins as an artist?
J – In college I painted. After we moved here I needed to bring in some money for the family. I did not want to take an office job, so I tried pottery. I was almost immediately successful, and extremely lucky, of course. This was a time when there was a resurgence of interest in handmade crafts. People bought pottery at crafts fairs. In 1976 I was one of the few Chatham County potters
Z – Interesting, you were a painter.
J – Yes. When I started few potters had representational glazes.
Z – Are you doing stoneware?
J – Yes.
Z – What cone do you fire to?
J – I fire to cone 10
Z – Do you make your own glazes?
J – Yes, I make my own glazes.
Z – I see you have different sizes, and various items. How do you determine your pricing?
J – I’d like to talk about that because it’s important to me. One reason I’ve been able to stay in business so long is because my prices reflect more than just the amount of time that goes into making a piece. I have to like making the piece. It should fit well with other pieces in the kiln so that it is not costly to fire. I also try to have a large number of pieces that I can price at an affordable level and that customers can use every day. Sometimes this proves to be a good investment. For example, recently a customer told me that twenty years ago she had bought a small inexpensive spoon rest, which was all that she could afford at the time, and that now she wanted to buy an entire dinnerware set. She said, “I looked at the spoon rest every day and thought I want more of that.”
Z- What sets your work apart from other potters?
J – My impressionistic landscape, animal and flower glazes and the large variety of functional pieces. During the Tour I sell lots of tableware.
Z – What do you hope people will get from having your pottery in their lives?
J – I hope they’ll love using it as much as I love making it. The most wonderful thing is when someone comes back after 20 years and says I’ve used this every day and love having it.
Z – Do you have a mission statement?
J – I want to keep making pottery as long as it keeps selling. If all of a sudden I didn’t sell it I probably wouldn’t keep making it. It’s a circular process; a way of connecting with people. One of my customers bought a dinner ware set 30 years ago, and now her daughter has bought one of her own. It’s nice to keep connecting with people through the generations
Z – Are there aspects that inspire you?
J – The scenery/ nature. I’m inspired by what I see all around me. I’m looking out my window all the time at the trees, the horses, the fields, trees and flowers.
Z – Have you ever done anything with children?
J – I have taken clay to schools and have helped children make bowls.
My three children and seven grandsons have worked in the studio. My five youngest grandsons, ages 5-15, still help at sales and occasionally make small pieces.
Z – Does the guild community impact your work?
J – The Tour has greatly influenced my work schedule. I don’t need to have an October sale any more , which I found stressful, since the Tour can be my main fall event. The publicity is wonderful. The Tour is 20% of my annual business. Another 40% comes from my regular studio hours (3-6 Sundays and Wednesdays). The rest is wholesale. I have a customer list of 2000 names. I send out a card. It costs money; I thought about e-mail. My customers say they prefer a card they can put on their refrigerator. I have had people return after having the card for ten years. That’s the only money I spend on publicity. Only people who’ve bought something go on the mailing list. I get names for my future from the tour.
The only way I used to get new people was by going to craft fairs. Now most of my new people have come from the Tour. Before few of my customers lived in Chatham County, and now many of them do.