Tom Gray

My pots are made on the potter’s wheel, or from slabs of clay draped over plaster molds. Many of my pots include a trimmed foot ring, trimming being one of my favorite parts of the whole pot making process, and the plaster molds are ones I designed and built back in 2001. They were so labor intensive and time consuming, I haven’t made any since. That said, they are holding up well, both mechanically and aesthetically.

Since around 1993 I have fired the majority of my work in a 65 cu. ft. car kiln, adjacent to my studio. It was the third kiln I built for myself, and by far the best firing of the three. It was originally designed according to the Minnesota Flat Top plans, but I made a few major alterations the first year, including removing the flat roof and replacing it with a sprung arch. Twenty plus years later, I would like to drop the arch a little, about eight or nine inches, more in conformance with the original height, providing me with a somewhat smaller kiln. I think it would be easier to fill now that I no longer have the energy of a 40 something, and might even close that 3/4 of a cone gap that has driven me crazy all these years.

For much of the last twenty five years, I have decorated my pieces with a clay slip trailed from hair tint bottles. Many of my themes have been reminders of fishing a little mill pond back home with my dad, and have included stylized dragonflies, humorous fish and flowing lines reminiscent of fly lines looping across the water. Sometimes, for a change of pace, I allow for the inspiration of Jackson Pollock’s works too. I try to stick with a few, simple designs, in hopes they will one day flow from my fingertips. The slip I use is a mixture of clays from my throwing body and a local, iron-bearing clay.
I have always been fascinated by matte glazes fired in a reduction atmosphere, and although I love other potter’s glossy pots, and the few I make, I prefer the earthiness of an old glaze called Rhodes # 32, or more commonly, mamo white. The vagaries this glaze provides, due to kiln placement, glaze thickness and changes in minerals, keeps me entertained as well as providing a good surface for pots used in food preparation, serving and dining. Every now and then there will be a sweeping zone in my kiln where this glaze is flashed by the flames, turning it a rusty orange. If I could predict it I would, but so far it has been very serendipitous. My recipe is a variation of the original, substituting some local clays when possible, simply because it looked so good the first time I figured out I could, and I have stuck with it ever since. I often trail a glossy temmoku over the mamo, the end result being a dark celadon-ish glaze.

Since July 1978 in Littleton, NC to the present day in Seagrove I have operated a storefront where the majority of my pots are sold. Interacting with my clientele, face-to-face, has been a very important part of my process as well. I keep in touch with my customers via e-mail newsletters,, Pinterest and other virtual means. That overused cliche about a pots user completing the cycle has become a cliche simply because there is something to it. I would not have been able to do this for such a long run if people had not appreciated and used my work within the context of their daily lives.

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