Meet the Potters
Not unlike Frank Capra’s mythical town of Bedford Falls in the classic It’s a Wonderful Life, Brewster could, in another dimension, be re-named “Pottersville.” One can’t swing a clay pot without hitting a potter in Brewster; it’s a bit of a phenomenon.
What’s perhaps even more incredible is the way these artists support one another. Not competitive with each other, they are only too happy to guide you to the next potter right down the road. It may well be that generous spirit that has created this pocket of clay artists in this small seaside town.
The potter who has been in town the longest, since 1961, is Marion Eckhardt. Now 90, she still goes to her studio and creates pots when she’s up to it. Most summers she has graduate students come study with her, utilize the wonderful studio space she has created, and learn from her close to half-century of experience. Eckhardt describes her works in stoneware and porcelain as “utilitarian,” but adds that she won’t take orders because she loves being free to make what she likes. It is worth a visit to Brewster Pottery just to meet this incredible woman.
Father and son team, Steven and Matthew Kemp, also create beautiful pieces in stoneware and porcelain. The designs of Kemp Pottery are Cape-inspired, but also have a bit of whimsy to them. The Kemps’ clay is made partly with Nauset sand, and their pieces have brushwork of local birds and nature themes. Matthew joined his father in the family business a few years ago, and his presence has both inspired his father and added a new dimension to the offerings in their shops. Their main shop and studio is in Orleans, just down the street, but this seasonal shop in Brewster offers an opportunity to see some of their beautiful fountains and pagodas on display in the gardens of the elder Kemp’s home-based shop.
Diane Heart of Heart Pottery lives up to her name – encouraging shoppers to make sure they visit the other Brewster potters, and she is a wonderful artist to visit. Her pieces have a wonderful lightness to them as she works exclusively in porcelain and creates beautiful large bowls, dinnerware, vases and other household items whose colors are light and, she says, inspired by the ocean. For those who have never seen someone create wheel-thrown pottery, it is mesmerizing to watch Heart so ably create her wares right before your eyes.
If you head east down Route 6A, you can stop in and visit Ken Parsons. Parsons’ clay pieces are unique and quite different from the other potters. Absenting the usual mugs and household items, Parsons creates large pieces, some to be used, others just for display. He glazes his pottery in a method called raku, which involves multiple firings in the kiln and results in a beautiful crackled appearance. Parsons is a painter as well as a potter, and his gallery is filled with works in both of his mediums. Tucked-away just off Route 6A, his studio is definitely worth a stop.
Clayton Calderwood is as entertaining to talk to as his work is to look at. A visit to his Clay works shop can involve hearing about his work process, or maybe British sci-fi television. (This writer had a very lively discussion about the evolution of Dr. Who.) Calderwood says he loves creating large pieces, but also makes smaller, household items like his signature fish platters/wall hangings, and mugs and bowls in porcelain, terra cotta and stoneware. His post-and-beam shop should be on your list of must-see pottery, not only for the wonderful pottery but for its wonderful gardens and Calderwood’s conversation as well.
A visit to Brewster wouldn’t be complete without a stop at some or all of these artists’ studios. In the off-seasons, it’s best to call for hours. Most of the potters listed will take custom orders, especially in the off-season; feel free to ask them about special ordering dinnerware or other items. Most of the potters mentioned here are members of Cape Cod Potters, which lists 27 artists Cape-wide. You can find them on the Web at www.capecodpotters.com.
437 Harwich Rd (Rte 124) • Brewster, MA
258 Main St. (June-August)
Brewster, MA • 508-385-5782
9 Cranberry Highway (year- round)
Orleans, MA • 508-255-5853
1145 Main St • Brewster, MA
2109 Main St. • Brewster, MA
3820 Main St. • Brewster, MA