story and photo by Tony Coppi
Greg Schatz creates fine handmade wood-fired pottery from stoneware and porcelain in his studio/gallery located in northeastern Brown County.
The studio, hidden in a densely wooded area on a hillside, is on Gatesville Road. It is near Fox’s Corner, an almost forgotten pioneer village that once thrived with a sawmill and tannery owned by the Fox family. Only a church and a cemetery remain as landmarks. The church, Goshen Church, is one of the oldest churches in the county.
Schatz and his wife Katie moved to Brown County two years ago from Defiance, Ohio. He had received a Bachelors Degree in fine arts at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.
“My wife and I were looking for a more scenic place to live coming from northwest Ohio. We were looking for a hilly wooded place. We traveled towards south-central Ohio and then towards this way and ended up here. We had heard of Brown County but had never been here. We stayed a few nights and liked the area and also with Nashville being an art colony, with tourism, we thought it would be a good place to set up pottery,” Schatz said. They moved into a home formerly owned by artist John Shady.
A two-car garage was converted into a three-room studio and gallery. The front room serves as a showroom where many unique wood fired potteries are neatly displayed. An adjacent room contains a kneading table, a pottery wheel and a kick wheel. An electric kiln is in a third room where large handmade creations are stored.
After converting the garage into a showroom and workshop Greg set up his outdoor wood-burning kiln, placing it on the downside of a hill about 50 to 60 yards from the studio.
“Prior to building the kiln I currently have, I researched different kilns and did some soul searching to determine what type of wood kilns to build. During this time I was able to participate in the firing of three different types of kilns, a large anagama, a small anagama, and a train kiln. These experiences and further research led me to design my current kiln.” Schatz said.
The kiln is large, about the size of an old storm cellar, roofed, with open sides. The ware chamber where the pots are stacked is an arch tube four feet wide at the base, four feet tall in the center, and seven and one-half feet long. At one end of the arched tube is a firebox, three feet deep, five feet wide, and five and one-half feet tall. On the opposite end of the firebox is an eighteen feet tall chimney to produce the proper draft for the wood-burning kiln. The firebox has two stoke holes. The lower stoke hole is just above the grate where the fire is started.
“After I make the pieces, they are set aside to dry. After I have enough pieces to fill the small electric kiln, I load the kiln and fire the pieces up to 1800 degrees. That makes them stronger for loading into the wood kiln and also makes the firing go easier. I don’t have to worry about getting all the moisture out of the pots while firing. Depending on the size of the pottery, from 100 to 150 pieces can be placed in the kiln,” Schatz explained.
“The kiln is turning out the kind of results I have been yearning for, for years, while coinciding with my work cycle and personal needs as a one-man studio,” he added.
One of the tools he uses is a rib. “There are a couple of different ribs that I use. One is a thin piece of stainless steel, another is a wooden rib, and a couple of rubber ribs. They got the word rib because thousands of years ago when potters were making pots they didn’t have supply companies making stainless steel or wooden ribs, they would actually take animal bone ribs to smooth out and shape the pots. The name kinda stuck, traveling down through the years.”
Greg also makes garden and outdoor related pottery. Many are displayed along a grass path towards the outdoor kiln. Planters, bird feeders, birdbaths, and sculptures can be found between plants and trees in the woodland gallery.
Functional and decorative pottery for home or office use and for gifts are in the showroom and at area art fairs. The Acorn Cottage Gallery in the historic Banner Brummett building at the corner of Franklin and Jefferson Streets in Nashville also displays his work. The Acorn Cottage phone number is 812-988-4080.
The Schatz Studio and Gallery is open most days, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and also by appointment at 2408 Gatesville Road, 812-988-2897.