george scatchard | vermont

Elegant simplicity is my goal as I make my pottery. Over the years, I have come to focus mostly on bowls large and small. The potter's wheel may be the very best way to make ceramic bowls. The forces of gravity and centrifugal force dictate strong organic forms. During my early days of making huge planters and fountains, I mastered the art of throwing very big bowls. My big kiln and these skills make large bowls a natural product for me. From the large bowls to my smaller products, simplicity is the goal. My decoration is mostly limited to glaze effects and application methods. For example, most of the big bowls are glazed on the wheel while they spin around. This allows the application two different glazes swirled together on one pot.

 

When I was in grade school back in the 1940's a teacher informed me that I had to switch from shop class to ceramics so other kids could go to wood shop. I was quite unhappy about that because shop was my favorite class. As it turned out the ceramics teacher was a German woman who had escaped Nazi Germany during World War Two. She was a wonderful muralist and ceramist whom I soon learned to admire greatly. She let me help her make glazes and I was one of just a few kids who were allowed to use the potter's wheel. Most of what we did was hand built, but I got stuck in the mud and never got out. In college, I started out as a business major and finished up as a secondary art teacher so I could continue to play in the mud. After graduation in 1960, I settled in Vermont near the end of a dirt road where I built a simple house. I never did get a real job. I started making pottery in my basement and firing it in the wood fired kiln I had built about 100 feet from the house. My basic concept was that I would be a subsistence potter making ware for the local folk. That didn't work out because the local people were operating on a subsistence level too and they didn't really need handmade pottery. The result was that I wound up converting the kiln to gas and selling big planters, garden lights and fountains to stores in New York and Boston. Within a few years, my wife at the time tired of living in such a remote location and we rented an apartment in Burlington Vermont. I rented a barn and built a new and better kiln. I continued to sell plant related pottery in New York and Boston to just a few dealers. A few years later, we found a house with a horse barn that we could afford to buy and fix up. We were a few miles South of Burlington and I continued to sell pottery to the dealers in New York and Boston. One winter day in 1966 a neighbor who was a well-known sculptor stopped by my studio to ask if I would like to teach at the University of Vermont. They had a big pile of fire bricks, but no-one knew how to build a kiln. One thing led to another and I wound up being an assistant professor in the art department. I was there for 3 years and set up their ceramics program. In 1971, I renovated another old horse barn which became my present studio. I made lots of utilitarian pottery in those days and sold it at craft shows and what we called “lifestyle stores” around New England. In the late 1970's what became known as the OPEC energy crisis hit potters hard. The cost of fuel, materials, transportation and living all went up. I decided that to have a larger and more steady market I would start making a line of slip-cast stoneware lamps to sell nationally. My hand thrown lamps had always been popular and I thought that if I cast similar ones in bigger volume I would be able to wholesale them to dealers. I made three styles in six colors and placed a small black and white ad in a national trade journal. Once again, I got lucky and two national companies wanted to sell the lamps for me. Of the two, I decided to go with George Kovacs in New York and he sold my lamps in high volume to furniture and lighting stores and through his contract division to interior designers. In the early 1980's a pair of recessions forced a slow-down in the lighting business and it was necessary for George Kovacs and his sales force to sell Kovacs lamps over mine as a matter of survival, so I ended our relationship and sold the lamps myself to many of the same stores and some new ones. When it became obvious that the internet was the place to be, I got lucky again and found a local web designer who had us showing up high in the new Google listings very quickly. The web site made George Scatchard Lamps a national brand over the next 25 years or so. In 2012 a larger lamp company, the House of Troy offered to buy my lamp business. They had a kiln built and I trained Steve Miller, one of their employees to be the potter who would run the new ceramics department. Now I am back where I started. I am making hand thrown pottery on the wheel again. Thanks to the internet and Etsy, I am still able to sell outside rural Vermont where I like to live.

 

good finds: (what you like or find interesting about these pieces)

 

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