Tuning In, turning back

The video links we've provided have triggered some questions from readers, and recollections for me.

The KDKA video is about a commemorative crock we make to celebrate the naming of our city. The Pittsburgh region was vital to our nation's move west. From our three rivers, the expansion was downhill all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Take a boat down the Ohio to the Mississippi, buy a Conestoga wagon, a team of horses, a ton of supplies, maybe a cow, and it was flat land all the way to the Rockies. Because of this strategic location, the point was an outpost, then a fort, and later a city, long before it was named Pittsburgh. The city's semiquincentennial celebration was spectacular. The Allegheny Conference organized a series of events culminating with a fireworks extravaganza that made even Pittsburgh's heralded pyrotechnic displays look commonplace. See for yourself. The year long celebration was so comprehensive, we decided to participate with a commemorative of our own that is available at zotterthepotter.com and at the Sen. John Heinz History Center .

We are currently doing a 250 piece for Culpeper VA, if you or your organization has a special anniversary or celebration give us a call, our crocks are fantastic fundraisers. One of our outlets sold about 1,000 pieces for the Frederick MD Bicentennial and an historical organization in Falls Church VA sold 400 pieces for their 200th anniversary.

The Pittsburgh 250 Crock  is a throwback to our "town commemoratives" years, and so is the You Tube video. From the mid-seventies to the early nineties we made pots with a town name, an appropriate logo, and sold them through gift shops in all fifty states. Our largest client was the Leggett Department Stores, a Mid-Atlantic States based chain. The Ron Hankison video played at our pottery displays in 28 Leggett Stores. It was received so well the Leggett brothers had me give live demonstrations, with a lot of media exposure, in many of their stores. I packed up my wheel, some clay, and headed off to cities as far north as Frederick Md and as far south as Wilmington NC. It was quite an effort, a huge success, and a lot of fun. One thing is for certain, Ron's video played a big role in our pottery displays' success, but when all is considered it is only one of many ways Ron has helped us along the way. Thanks again Ron.

I hope this window to the past filled in the blanks, it sure has triggered memories. I have a lot of "tour stories". The tour was the beginning of our personalized pottery line that celebrates weddings, anniversaries, and many other special occasions. It was the Leggett Stores that had the first display where you could order a personalized marriage crock. From there, several national mail order catalogs picked up the line and before we could have anticipated, the town line was phased down to major celebrations like Pittsburgh 250 and corporate level promotions. The personalized line has been our primary effort since the mid-nineties.

Thanks for tuning in,

Zotter The Potter


Old friends, New Friends...Made with Love

One of the very nice things about Walt is his ability to keep in touch with old friends. He recently was able to watch one of his beloved Penguins hockey games (our Pittsburgh Pens are the current Stanley Cup Champions!) with some of his childhood friends from way way back....

and some of his new friends : ) Don't you love it when you can get your old friends and new friends together? Walter Zotter is the guy wearing the hockey jersey and "the beard".

Both Walt's friendships and his pots are "made with love". If you are lucky enough to have Walt for a friend, then you know you will have a friend for life.
This is a picture of a cookie jar ordered from a customer. We can only imagine the goodies that will be put in it. --Jo


From the archives

Our friend Ron H. made this video for Zotter a long, long time ago. The more things change, the more some things stay the same.


This video clip is interestesting, I hope you take the time to check it out. Thanks, Jo


The Kiln

One of the nice things about January after the Christmas rush  is that I have time for special projects. Along with starting new things like the blog, I can also take care of old things like the kiln. We have what is called a forced air, reduction fire, shuttle kiln.

"Forced air" refers to the gas burners that have fans for increased airflow. "Reduction fire" refers to a firing process that creates an atmosphere that makes a clear glaze on a tan pot, a gray glaze on a brown pot. Our "shuttle kiln" stands seven feet tall with equally sized six foot walls. The roof is flat not arched. This is because the walls and roof are made with a light weight high temperature fiber that is attached to a heavy duty steel mesh frame. The front side of the kiln has the burners and chimney. The rear wall is welded to a steel cart that supports the kiln's heavy brick floor. This L-shaped shuttle is on wheels so with just removing two clamps, the door and floor rolls away with all the shelves and pots.

This design makes loading and unloading much easier. I built this third generation kiln twenty years ago. It requires very little maintenance mainly because I used a fiber with a very high temperature limit. If I had used a lower limit fiber the liner would have needed to be replaced years ago. This is because temperature limits change with repeat firings. If I refire a finished pot to the same temperature the pot will look overfired. In the same way the ceramic walls will eventually lose its fireability and become brittle and begin to flake.

A kiln of this design has very even temperature and atmospheric circulation and is easily disassembled which came in handy when we moved to our expanded facility a few years ago.



The star of the show

This is our signature Christmas piece. The picture is a little dark, but I think it looks cozy. We mark the time by changing the year and the names. Different years mean different things for each person. We hope that a special memory evokes every time the recipient looks at it. Who would you like to give one to next time?-jo


We love our neighborhood

We love where we live and work in the historic and eclectic South Side of Pittsburgh.  It is our very own "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood". We wanted to share some of the people, places and things we enjoy about our neighborhood in this and future blog entries.
First up, The Double Wide Grill, located on Carson St, South Side. The Double Wide Grill offers wood-cookin' dining, a popular weekend brunch, and a great beer selection in a converted retro auto repair garage. Outdoor seating in warmer weather is a great place to see and be seen. http://doublewidegrill.com/

This picture of our pot is a little crooked, but you get the idea. We love our monogram logo design that's shown in the middle. You can opt to personalize the center with an initial or number. Some customers have even left it blank. I'm guessing that the "C" is the first letter in their last name, right? -jo


First stamped pot of the year

When I threw my first pot of the year, it occured to me that it marked the beginning of my 5th calendar decade of throwing. Since the seventies, it has been the same pots, the same process, the same efforts, but that is where the sameness ends and why my blog is called " Zotter The Potter...As the Wheel Turns". Everything else can turn like a potters wheel;  location, staff, clientele and markets change and have shaped me as much as I have shaped the pots: the trick has been to not let the turns and changes spin out of control.

It is tradition for Walt to stamp the first pot of the year this way. What changes is the year on the maker's mark on the back. This is the way a pot looks when it gets stamped. Once stamped, we let the pot harden for it's first bisque firing. Happy 2010.

Our friend Darryl, and avid skier and one heck of an accountant.


One of our favorites...

We loved this layout ordered by one of our customers this past season. The shape is the MC and the logo is the mulberry tree. Is this for their home or their seasonal cabin?


We are back to work

It has been very cold and snowy here in Pittsburgh with a forecast for the rest of the week that gets worse. Fortunately this cold spell has occured while we are enjoying our post Christmas rest. I live where we work so my ventures outside can easily be limited by finding things to do inside. I've caught up on a lot of delayed chores and projects and rearranged my personal area that my dogs and I love.

Wilma and Stella, my short-haired Jack Russells,  love snuggling up to each other on their dog bed in front of a space heater but when it is time to go out they don't seem to mind the cold. Even though they are Jacks, they don't need collars or leashes. They wait on the sidewalk and will not cross the street without my release. They can almost talk. If we spend too much time in the cold they go to the sink and let me know they want their paws rinsed with warm water.

Take care and stay warm.