The fourth annual Cleburne County pottery show will be Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Cleburne County Mountain Center in Heflin.
The show, which is free to the public, will feature historic pottery, collectors, artists and pottery for sale.
At 11 a.m., Joey Brackner of the Alabama State Council on the Arts and author of “Alabama Folk Pottery” will give a presentation about pottery of Cleburne County.
Cleburne County, specifically Oak Level in the northern part of the county, was prolific for pottery between 1840-1930, according to show organizer Bill Garland, a research assistant with the Environmental Policy and Information Center at Jacksonville State University and a folk pottery collector.
Garland said that pottery from this era was distinctive for not only the glazes used but for the style. The potters of that time used a coggle wheel, which left a set of distinctive ridges on the pottery. Those ridges are used by collectors and historians to identify the pottery as being from Cleburne County.
Garland said the glazes used by the potters were made from found ingredients including sand, clay slip (a liquified suspension of clay particles) and a flux containing either limestone or wood ash.
The limestone glaze gave the pottery a white appearance, and the wood ash gave the pottery a dark and sometimes distinctive green appearance.
“You didn’t have to go out and buy anything, so these people could start and operate these potteries without any cash whatsoever,” Garland said. “It took a lot — a lot of work — because they had to mix these, grind them — and they were caustic. They burnt their hands. It was a rough life,” Garland said.
Garland said that the formula for the glaze originated 2,000 years ago in China. How it got to Cleburne County is a mystery.
The pottery produced was primarily utilitarian: milk jugs, urns, pitchers, things people needed to survive, Garland said.
One of the famous pieces from Cleburne County is a sugar bowl aptly called a “Cleburne sugar bowl.” Garland said that these bowls probably did not contain sugar as they were too large, but they resembled a sugar bowl in appearance.
Cleburne sugar bowls have a decorative lid and double handles, and were produced from 1850-70.
The Cleburne County pottery show is sponsored by JSU, the Cleburne County Chamber of Commerce and the Heflin Arts Council.