Monday, August 1, 2011

Local collection on display at regional Museum

News to Know

by Kelly Caldwell

Local residents Gary and Martha Price are collectors. It doesn't matter if its sports memorabilia, Barbie Dolls, glassware or hats... If they think it has value either now or in the future, they keep it. However, they take more pride in one collection more than the rest.

The pair began collecting folk pottery from East Alabama in the 1980s and haven't stopped since.

There collection of pottery from Rock Mills, Bacon Level and Hickory Flats will be showcased at the Julie Smith Collins Museum of Fine Art in Auburn beginning August 6 and running through November 26.

These are a few pieces of local folk pottery Gary and
Martha Price have collected over the years. Their collection
will be on display at the Julie Smith Collins Museum of
 Fine Arts in Auburn beginning August 6.

“Alabama Folk Pottery has been around for more than 200 years,” Gary Price said. “The early settlers to this area came from the Carolinas and Georgia and with them they brought their trades.”

The first settlers came to what would be Alabama after the removal of the Native Americans in the 1830s. Back then, pottery was made to be used and the style was reflective of the purpose.

“Most of the pottery from this area is utilitarian in nature,” Price said. “Churns, jugs, pitchers and other crockery were made for the potter’s family and community. All of the pottery was meant to be used and very little of it was decorative.”

Some of the more well-known potters from the area include William Hudson Boggs, “Charley” Brown, Cicero Demosthenes Hudson, John Frederick Lehman, John Davis Leopard, William Davis Pound, Zachary Taylor Ussery and Jesse James Weathers.

“These potters used homemade glazes in the early days, which included whatever they could find,” Price said. “The ash glazes were used until the railroad came to the area. Then salt was added to the mix to give a different effect.”

Making pottery was a family tradition for these people and it was something that was passed down from generation to generation with little deviation.

“The Ussery family was one of the best known pottery-making families in Alabama,” Price said. “The heirs of Robert Ussery learned the trade and continued to pass it down to their children and grandchildren.”

Zachary Taylor Ussery, grandson of Robert, remained in Randolph County and was known to use the potters mark ZTU. He also made “Alabama Churns” which have two strap handles on one side.

Gary and Martha Price have been collecting Rock Mills
Pottery as well as other local pottery since the 1980s.

“Alabama Folk Pottery is distinctive and highly collectible,” Price said. “We first began collecting in the '80s and have learned so much about the families that created these pieces.”

Pieces of Alabama Folk Pottery from this area are on display at the High Museum in Atlanta as well as the Birmingham Museum of Art.

“Collectors began coming to the area and 'picking' probably in the early '70s when folk art became popular,” Price said. “At that time, most of the people around here didn't think much of the old pitcher in the cabinet so they would sell it for a couple of hundred dollars... Then those 'pickers' would turn around and sell it for thousands of dollars.

“I know there have been pieces of Rock Mills pottery to sell at auction for more than $75,000,” he said.

“So my best advice to people that think they have Alabama Folk Pottery is not to sell it to the first person that comes calling. Do your homework and it could be worth a lot more than you think.”


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