April 17, 2003
front page
more news
ad information
contact information


Yellow Springs Pottery—
Marking 30 years of throwing pots

Members of Yellow Springs Pottery, front row, from left: Janet Murie, Jane Hockensmith and Kim Kramer; back row: Dave Hergesheimer, Evelyn LaMers, Michele Dutcher, Eliza Bush, Jerry Davis and Marsha Cochran. Not pictured: Justin Teilhet.

Yellow Springs Pottery customers often peer toward a door behind the cash register and ask if they can see a potter at work, potter Eliza Bush said. But the door leads to a closet, not a pottery studio, and customers sometimes leave disappointed.
But next weekend the 10 potters who make up the Yellow Springs Pottery collective will put themselves and their craft on display at a day-long pottery-making demonstration in celebration of their 30th anniversary. The event, which takes place Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., in Kings Yard, will feature three potting wheels going all day. The potters hope to create 100 pots, which they will donate to the John Bryan Community Pot Shop and to Stivers School for the Arts in Dayton.
“We wanted to give something back to the community,” said Bush, a 20-year member of the collective. “Villagers are still our main customers, and they have supported us all these years.”
It’s unusual for potters to join forces in a collective business and even more unusual for the business to have flourished for three decades, said Bush and fellow co-op member David Hergesheimer.
“It seems like lots of co-op groups have internal friction, but we just haven’t had that,” said Hergesheimer, who’s been a co-op member 15 years. Mainly, he believes, the members have stayed together because the store’s been financially successful. And it continues to thrive, even in a shaky economy.
“Recessions come and go and we hardly notice them,” said Hergesheimer, who believes that people usually buy pottery for gifts, and gift-giving takes place no matter how sluggish the economy. The store’s financial success can also be linked to the variety of pottery it offers, said former co-op member Nora Osbourne. Pottery members consciously attempt to include in their membership potters who practice different styles, so as to give customers a choice, she added.
The cooperative’s longevity can also be linked to its members’ stability, said Hergesheimer, who said that, during his own 15-year tenure as a member, only four members have left and been replaced by others. “There’s a slow rate of coming and going.”
Co-op members stay because they try hard to work out any problems or disagreements, said Evelyn LaMers, who as a 29-year veteran has been with the store the longest.
“For a co-op to work, everyone has to be happy,” she said. Members stay happy because, when dissatisfactions arise, they’re dealt with immediately, LaMers said. Members meet together to brainstorm solutions to the problem and more often than not, they find a solution.
“I love this part,” she said. “We analyze possible solutions to find the best and we figure it out. We do it until everyone’s pleased. It works fabulously.”
That same desire to please crosses over to relationships with customers, LaMers said.
“If we have an unhappy customer, we’ll do anything we can to fix it,” she said. “We’ll apologize, we’ll buy them flowers, we’ll do what it takes to make people happy.”
During Yellow Springs Pottery’s history, membership has ranged from 8 to 11, said Bush, with 10 the optimum number. Currently, local members are Bush, Hergesheimer, Evelyn LaMers, Jane Hockensmith and Janet Murie, and out-of-town members are Marsha Cochran of Cincinnati, Jerry Davis of Dayton, Kim Kramer and Michele Dutcher of Beavercreek and Justin Teilhet of Clifton.
Other villagers who have been Yellow Springs Pottery members over the years include Eve Fleck, Patsy Gardner, Faith Morgan and Paul Laursen.
The store’s wide variety of pottery ranges from the classic, functional pots of Jerry Davis to the hand-painted, brightly colored serving trays of Kim Kramer to the abstract flower vases created by Hergesheimer and his wife, Keiko. While other potters often assume that Pottery members compete with each other, the reality is quite different, Bush said.
“The cooperative spirit is always stressed,” said Bush. “We support each other.”
New Pottery members generally already have years of pottery experience, so that each person arrives with a fully developed style, said Bush, who believes that self-assurance contributes to the members’ lack of competitiveness.
As well as showing the public how potters work, the cooperative members look forward next week to seeing each other’s process, and to collaborating on some pieces, said Hergesheimer. The potters may add handles or spouts on each others’ work, or two potters might throw a pot simultaneously.
“There’s no telling what might happen,” Hergesheimer said with a grin.
Making pottery is one of the world’s oldest crafts, and the potters take pride in the longevity of their profession. “On your best days you feel part of an ancient stream of potters who have been working since prehistoric times,” he said.
Though Hergesheimer, Bush and LaMers have each thrown thousands of pots in their lives, the process continues to fascinate them. “I think glazing is alchemy,” Bush said about the process of mixing sand to make a glassy decorative effect. Hergesheimer said that, whenever a new load of clay is delivered to his studio, he remembers the fairy tale about a princess who turns straw into gold.
Next Saturday, Yellow Springs residents can watch as these potters take their straw and turn it into gold.
—Diane Chiddister