As we continue to celebrate our 50th anniversary, we contemplate not only our existence (as 50-year-olds will do), but also the cause of our longevity. Inarguably, one of the main reasons we have been here for five decades is the ceramic art housed within the walls of this old farmhouse. For a time longer than the age of many of our customers, we have had the honor to foster troves of treasures until their new caretakers arrive and bring them home.
But what is pottery? It’s a simple question and a word easily defined, but a larger concept to explore.
It may first enter our minds in a picture book in elementary school of an archeological dig that unearths relics long-buried, of ancient, elusive people and their customs – mysterious civilizations that have long ago vanished from a time we will never truly know. Discovered in far-off places, it may feel untouchable, something our eyes will only see in a museum...like a bowl found in the cliff-dwellings of Mesa Verde, a vase from a cave in Jiangxi Province in China, ostraca (early notepads) from Israel, a ritualistic sculpture from Peru, a ceremonial African mask or an Egyptian canopic jar, miraculously surviving centuries, or broken into nearly undestroyable shards, to be pieced back together by other hands. This bygone pottery captivates us. We are a culture drawn to mysteries and puzzles as if uncovering their secrets might help us discover more of ourselves in some way. In these historical digs, it is the pottery that remains and holds the clues. The finding, the pieces themselves, and the process of creating them is rife with potential metaphors as we take those concepts and apply them to our own archeological digs into our psychology and the excavations we make in this life into our own minds and souls.
At its most simple definition, pottery is an object made of clay that, when properly heated, undergoes a transformation into hardened form. It is the dishes in our cabinets, the flowerpot in our garden, the decorative pieces adding color and texture to our walls and shelves. It is the elementary sculptures, made by our tiny kindergartner hands, that a caring teacher carefully kiln-fired for us to present to our mothers. It is functional and necessary, but it is also decorative and appreciated simply for its beauty. When we come to better understand all the forms that pottery can take, we realize that we are surrounded by it our entire lives. We partake in the pleasure of it, many times without knowing exactly what it took to create it. “From the sensory to history,” as one of our potters, Justin LeBart, says about his love for pottery.
Clay may be the most basic ingredient of the craft, but there are more esoteric and unseen components to explore as well. Original owner and Mossy Creek Pottery founder, Bob Richardson, conveys his thoughts about his pieces: “Most are forever, designs never to be seen again.” His words carry an eerie sentiment speaking to the element of the release of a maker – creating and letting go – but also the enigmatic sustaining power of a piece of clay that can carry through timelines and generations. The art of detachment must be a part of the potter’s process as each piece vanishes from their sight into our homes and spaces...from their hands and hearts to ours.
At Mossy Creek Pottery, we are fortunate to be the intermediary between pottery and patron. This unique position has given us a beautiful, and at times even comical view of how people find, connect with, and use the pieces they choose. Ellen Far, a customer who has been visiting us for nearly all of our 50 years, shared how on one occasion she brought in her tea-maker appliance and set it on our front desk, “much to the controlled amusement of the cashier,” just to find the perfect mug to fit under the spout. She tried each mug until she found the one that fit, one whose glaze and type of clay she would not have normally chosen. However, she shared with us that “it has become my favorite for tea and gazing at the ocean.” There was a family that lost their son who loved to come to Mossy Creek. They came to honor his favorite place and to choose a vessel for his ashes. Another customer recently shared with us that her pottery has become “her friends” that have been with her through it all. And yet another has told us that her favorite mug, not to be left behind, even comes along for her camping trips. Morning is just not the same without the comfort of curling her hands around her curated cup. We all have our favorites.
Whether it be for functional use or just purely for decoration, pottery continues to be an enduring remnant of humanity, something that has connected us all since the beginning of civilization that has become essential. Its allure and mystery confound us at times and engages us when we realize the worth and timeless essence that we get to call our own signature piece of this earth. We make use of it with the plates and bowls that hold our daily sustenance in style for the bodies of those we love. We see it in the serving piece passed down from a grandparent that provides a throughline to our own personal history. It is the art that turns our homes into galleries and brings waves of inspiration to a mundane day. It is the vessels that hold the beauty, love, and compassion of all the cycles of our lives – from a vase holding flowers to celebrate births and milestones to an urn containing the ashes of those we hold dear. In this short-lived, ever-changing life, pottery has the potential to exist and ever last, and it also has the potential to break in an instant. Its durability makes it desirable, but its fragility makes us cherish it even more.
All this from a little lump of clay. It is no wonder we wax on about its magic.
Today and every day, we thank the potters over the last 50 years, the artists without whom this art would not exist, who have helped transform us all with this phenomenon known as pottery here at Mossy Creek.
Current owner, potter, writer, and poet Melanie Richardson (no relation to Bob, just a lovely synchronicity) shares her sentiments in this poem about pottery:
As delicate as this object is
It is art that longs to be held
In the same lines and grooves
Where the potter’s hands were before
Across space and time
Pottery is craft
Created with purpose
Grants it entry into our lives
Fragile enough to use with care
Yet not so precious
As to be elusive
Or exclusive to but a few
This is an artform
For everyone to enjoy
One that need not be kept from us
With roped-off spaces
And glass or alarm
One that yearns to fulfill a need
And be appreciated
For the beauty it brings
To our everyday life
Practical yet magical
For what is pottery but alchemy?
Creating something new
Where once was base material
From the elements
Earth Water Air Fire
Crystalized into form
Imagined into being
To last into antiquity
And scatter to the winds
To return to the dust
Thank you, again, for 50 fabulous years of Mossy Creek Pottery! And thank you very much to those of you who sent us photos of your pottery from MCP in your homes and personal spaces. Here's a video of your masterpieces. As many of you say, we truly have some of the BEST pottery around, but it's just an empty vessel until you adopt it and fill it with life and purpose. May MCP and the treasures we host continue to enrich all our lives for many years to come. Thanks to anyone who has ventured down this short windy road off the beaten path into our hearts and claimed your piece of earth from us.
Written by Kelly Clark and Melanie Richardson for Mossy Creek Pottery