Lately, it seems, I am having this discussion over and over with more and more people. It involves what exactly constitutes “Old Edgefield Pottery” or “Old Edgefield-style pottery“.
To start with, this refers to wood-fired, alkaline or ash glazed type of pottery made in the 19th and early 20th Centuries in what was known as the Old Edgefield District. This district is no more since it was divided into the modern day counties of Aiken and Edgefield. We all agree that the 20 or so old potteries located in the old district qualify as having had made Old Edgefield Pottery.
Now, let’s get down to matters of present day. I was born and live in this same area of South Carolina in discussion. I produce wood-fired, ash-glazed pottery from the native clays of this area. It is very difficult to make pottery in this manner. I fire a groundhog kiln at my house and one at my studio in Augusta, GA. I describe my work as Edgefield-style, not Old Edgefield.
I see a lot of modern pottery for sale on ebay, in galleries, etc., describing it to be “authentic” Old Edgefield pottery or Old Edgefield-style pottery. Yet, it was fired in an electric or gas kiln, made with commercially bought, blended clays and may have been made in Montana. How is that even close to what the true old pottery is? It’s NOT! The truth is, Old Edgefield pottery gains in popularity by the day. Each new auction of old pottery tops the previous auction. There are many out there who are capitalizing on this and misleading the public as well as their customers.
As I stated, it is hard work to produce pottery in the old manner. Often, the better part of a kiln load of pottery is lost or damaged due to events beyond control. The tasks of keeping good wood in supply and dealing with digging and processing the clay are endless, not to mention the hours spent making pots and glazing them. It can take the better part of a day just to load a groundhog kiln and up to 40 hours to fire it!
There are excellent potters in my area who make good pots, but they don’t have anything in common with the Old Edgefield pottery produced here or authentic reproductions of it. They have few failures in their electric kiln and really churn the pots out. And, for reasons I’ve yet to understand, charge outrageous prices for their work.
So, after my long rant, I propose a new title to apply to this modern work produced by modern methods, Edgefield-inspired pottery. Let’s all work to honor the most significant pottery to ever be produced in the USA by not muddying the water and purposefully misleading the public. Let’s use appropriate terms and descriptions when advertising our pots.