Forty years ago this month I arrived in Fredericksburg, Virginia with all of my worldly possessions packed into my ’66 Chevy van. The Fredericksburg Pottery was founded by two local families in 1976 and was located at the corner of Sophia Street and Hanover Street in the historic district.
Fredericksburg in 1980 was a very different town…early that year the Spotsylvania Mall was opened and most of the shops left downtown. It might be hard for more recent residents to believe, but a number of major department stores including Sears and Penney’s used to be located in our fair city.
I was hired to expand the pottery’s business. There was no longer enough foot traffic to support us so I designed a simple line of pottery and trained the two potters that I had inherited to make them. We then began selling work up and down the East Coast to galleries and craft shops and restaurants. The most significant restaurant was in our back yard…just a few months after I arrived Sammy T’s was opened. It was a welcome addition to town, bringing in a menu that went way beyond barbecue (vegetarian and vegan food!). We made them an offer that they couldn’t refuse…I would trade pottery for food so that I could get my work on the tables in front of their customers. This was a happy relationship and I met most of my friends in that cozy restaurant. I made little creamers and bud vases and I still occasionally meet a former customer (or employee) who confesses to taking one or two home! I didn’t mind, as it meant I could make more and eat more!
I spent three years building the business and while we were successful I grew to understand that I needed the freedom to work on my own. I had four bosses and two employees and it was all too much for me then. I have always been an explorer in the studio, trying new things, discarding old ideas and our business didn’t allow for that. My skills had grown during that time, but I wanted more freedom to express myself.
In 1984 I purchased the business and moved to a farm on the Rappahanock River in Dogue. I was now on my own and I carried on the wholesale business while spending a lot of time developing new work and ideas. I sold pots in a couple of shops downtown as well. This was the second of what has turned out to be 5 different studios…it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that I had been a nomadic pottery builder, before I arrived here I had been traveling nonstop since leaving home at 18.
Stay tuned for part 2!