HEFLIN — The sixth annual Cleburne County Pottery Show celebrating the county’s heritage of distinctive earthenware will be held Sept. 28 at the Cleburne County Mountain Center.
Collectors will display their Cleburne County pottery, contemporary Alabama potters will have pottery for sale, and experts will identify pottery brought in by the public.
Joey Brackner, from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and author of a book, “Alabama Folk Pottery,” will talk about the history of Cleburne County pottery.
Event organizer Bill Garland said Cleburne County pottery has a unique style and appearance due to the economic circumstances in the 19th century. He explained that while northern U.S. pottery companies had the money to buy glazes for their pottery, potters in the Southern town of Edgefield, S.C., who had little or no money, devised a formula to make a glaze from the existing natural resources.
Garland said that found ingredients including sand, clay slip (a liquified suspension of clay particles) and a flux containing either limestone or wood ash were available without spending any money.
“From Edgefield this formula worked into North Carolina, didn’t go much further north than that, and south it started working across Georgia and into Alabama,” Garland said.
Garland said the glaze recipe was brought by artisans along the early federal roads which cut through the Indian nations in the 1830s.
“Where you had a federal road, a lot of the early potters, particularly in Randolph County, were situated along the federal roads,” said Garland.
Garland said that pottery in the South lasted longer than in other geographic regions because there was very little glass being made at the time.
“People relied almost 100 percent on stoneware pottery for everything,” Garland said, including cups, saucers, food storage jars, pickling jars and dinnerware for whiskey, milk and any other liquid.
Garland said that the J. A. Rogers jug house in Oak Level was a prolific pottery manufacturer from 1880 until 1930.
“It was really one of the last potteries to close in the state of Alabama,” said Garland.
Rogers had several locations in and around Oak Level, Garland said, and evidence of one of those locations still remains. The buildings are long gone but thousands of broken pieces of pottery from a waste pile jut out of the kudzu where the jug house once stood.
Garland collected some shards from the Rogers site to take to the pottery show to help collectors determine where particular pottery pieces were made.
Garland has a photograph dated 1915 which shows a four-horse drawn wagon in the Calhoun County settlement of Ladiga. The wagon is loaded down with pottery for sale from the Rogers jug house and according to Garland that is the only photo he has seen of its kind.
Garland said that Rogers sold quite a lot of pottery in Anniston.
“One half of the pottery that shows up in Anniston is from Cleburne County,” said Garland.
Garland said that potters Mike Williamson from Ranburne and Bobby Gaither from Remlap will have pottery for sale.
“Both of them are phenomenal potters and they make the wares today much like they were made 100 years ago,” Garland said.