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“This is Where I Want to Be!” says Archeologist

Edgefield Has “Nonrenewable Resources”

Laura Clifford had made a long journey of study and discovery before she said, “This is where I want to be!” This was when she landed at the Piedmont Pottery Center under the teachings of Thomas Koole. She had been a teacher with higher degrees in archeology and education and more recently had run a business which needed the assistance from someone degreed in public archeology for the private sector.

Laura Clifford works on clay that was mined in Edgefield and that she processed. Thomas Koole, Pottery Center Director, is instructing here.

Laura Clifford works on clay that was mined in Edgefield and that she processed. Thomas Koole, Pottery Center Director, is instructing here.

Along the way she was looking for reading material and stepped into the National Underground RR Museum to find Leonard Todd’s book Carolina Clay. The book whetted an appetite to visit Edgefield.

Some time later, Laura was invited to visit a friend in North Carolina, and a part of the plan for the visit was to be driven to this Town of Edgefield on a weekend. And, it turned out to be the weekend that the May pottery tour was in process, which opened the door even wider to knowing what pottery is all about, both now and then (meaning Old Edgefield Pottery story).

Laura’s life was at a turning point, so she came on down and found a place to rent (in Trenton) and a place to do pottery – at the Piedmont Pottery Center. And now, most days, you will see her at a wheel working on her pots or in an ante room doing research, where the Advertiser first met her.

Mr. Koole calls her an anthropologist. She shies away from that, but that was her first profession (educator was next), and what brought her here is Edgefield Pottery, which Laura says every anthropologist knows about. She has certainly had her hands in pottery before, but this time it is much more intensive, with a deeper purpose. This move to Edgefield County seems to have inspired another step in her education; she will be attending the University of South Carolina beginning in the fall with a Ph.D. as her goal, in anthropology.

She is thrilled with the diverse faculty at USC Columbia. She will carry with her to her studies more understanding of the process of pottery making, under Koole’s tutelage, along with a closer feeling for the products of Dave the Potter.

Laura has a strong interest in linguistics – another facet of anthropology. She derived much pleasure from teaching children in need, especially in their use of language, and how their language needed to be respected though it did not always dovetail with English. She developed the idea of “home talk” and “school talk,” that home talk is good, but not always right for school talk where everyone must be able to find common ground for understanding. As an anthropologist, another way of saving language.

And Laura is about saving what is good. She is concerned that the Plantation House may be lost, and if so, a part of the square will be lost forever. This is a “nonrenewable” resource that cannot be lost, she says. “A ton of work needs to be done here” to save these historical resources. Once gone, she says, they can never be brought back. (As she talks one feels the immediacy of their worth.)

And about pottery making: “It lets your mind be your mind, It has allowed my mind to be stress free. . . it happens at the wheel.”

All the way from Oregon where she was born, and Cincinnati where she continued in her life’s training, Laura has landed in Edgefield County and finds it “a wonderful place.” She is the mother of identical twins who are in college, and she finds that with the “empty nest” she will be able to continue her journey of archeology, now studied with Edgefield Pottery as an added feature. The work by the University of Chicago in Pottersville and their studies are available to her as well as all the expertise that Edgefield has to offer through historians, artists and writers.

Welcome, Laura Clifford. We look forward to hearing more from you as you continue your career path in our midst.