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A brief interview with Thomas Koole and Justin Guy, two Edgefield potters of note, give explanations of interest to the style and form of their special gifts, made without charge for the Town as gifts to the 2013 Christmas House Decoration Winners.
Thomas Koole spoke of his pottery as “using tradition in a new way.” As a replacement for the welcome mat, the pot he designed for the winner of the Christmas house decorating contest is to be placed outside (at the doorway) to warn the visitor of the mood of the household. Rather than a “Beware of the Dog” sign, the pot will give the clue; it holds the face of an angry cat on one side that says “beware” and a happy dog on the other side, which welcomes the visitor.
Koole used this explanation to offer what he is trying to do as director of the PTC Pottery Center – to take what may be traditional and place it into pottery, melding the old and the new. He noted that the Pottery Center is there to help artisans improve their craft (pottery) and work toward producing income from it. “Self employment seems the way to go; there are certainly few jobs for people in the rural areas.”
So, maybe there will be a call for more of these pots, to ward off unwanted visitors, or make them welcome before they enter the door. One can have one by contacting Koole at the Pottery Center, or join in a class and make your own.
Justin Guy’s piece of pottery is an example of Old Edgefield Pottery which he is continuing to produce as both an art form and a utilitarian object for use in the home. Justin is the master potter in the Old Edgefield Pottery atelier in Potters Alley off the square in Edgefield and he came to this job in the last year after Stephen Ferrell left the position.
In Justin’s words, “My work is a continuation of a tradition started in Edgefield over 200 years ago. Now we may use electric wheels for turning out pots, just as now we have electric lights whereas there were gas lanterns before. . . We try to get as close as possible to the original technics and technology, including using the groundhog kiln.” That groundhog kiln is like an extension of the Potters Alley workshop and is fired every so many months. The pots that are fired in it are from master potter Guy and Robert Taft, who also produces traditional Edgefield Pottery.
Justin Guy apprenticed under Ferrell before going to college and eventually teaching at Columbia College. He grew up near the old site where Dave the Potter last worked in the 19th century, off Bettis Academy Rd. Justin has his own private work area there now at his home where he is still under the influence of the major potters of the Old Edgefield Pottery greats.