Potter Judy Prichard

By Barney Quick

Even the most quantitative of people have inner artists waiting to be set free. Consider the case of Judy Prichard, who was drawn to pottery by the technical aspect of throwing clay, but has discovered a level of creativity that involves surprise yet makes ample use of what she calls her “black-and-white head.” Since her first classes in ceramics, she has developed a distinct range of colors and shapes that make for a style all her own.

She works and sells from a studio atop a hill on Oak Grove Road, a few feet from the combination home and home stay inn she and her husband built a couple of years ago. They are among those former flatlanders who closed the corporate chapters of their lives to enjoy a pastoral setting for self-expression and small-community connectedness.

Her pottery, even the recent pieces that tend to sport less conventional flourishes, is generally functional: serving platters, toothpick holders, soup bowls, teapots, baskets. The colors range from deep blues through subdued green to earthy brownish-reds.

Since her earliest days as a potter, she has been drawn to red clay. She started out using tenmoku, a kind of brown glaze, over which she would put chun, a blue glaze. She used that combination in a gas kiln and later developed her own glaze that emulates that look through a low-fire process.

Prichard makes all her own glazes. “Again, it’s the black-and-white thing,” she explains. “I come from a business background. I like to plan, to know how things will turn out. Still, there’s always an element of surprise when you open the kiln, and I like that, too.” Lately, she has concentrated on a green glaze that seems to signify a new stylistic phase in her work. When one peruses the pieces on her shelves, one can see an evolution in color focus.

Timing, something she can control, yields results that she can’t fully anticipate. She points to a bowl and says, “I could have held that in that glaze a second longer and it would have had a different look.”

Bud vase/toothpick holders are a specialty of hers that allow her to refine her style while marketing something commercially viable. “I sell a lot of them as wedding thank you gifts,” she says. She makes them from humps of clay from which she throws off smaller objects.

The handles on her serving platters are a good example of the custom-crafting of her work. They elegantly loop back and forth at the platter’s edges. “I’m not a production potter,” says Prichard. “I do everything by hand. Nothing is extruded.”

The small holes in her lace bowl series are created using an electric drill. “When we were building this studio and our house, I held a drill in my hand for long periods of time,” she says.

Her notable foray into decorative ceramics is her Brown County Woodsman series. These pieces are for wall hanging and depict the face of a bearded man. She has done them unglazed and in various color schemes.

She has both a gas kiln and an electric kiln. She currently uses the electric kiln for low firing. Lately, she has been sawdust-firing some pieces. She does this in a trash can behind her house. She expects to sawdust-fire a large raku clay vase in her studio that’s nearly ready.

One piece with which she’s particularly pleased is a basket made of raku clay with terra cotta slip. She applied shellac to the surface to draw the criss-crosses that emulate woven strips. Then she used a sponge to wash away everything that wasn’t shellac. “A lot of people think it’s an actual woven basket,” she says.

This June, Judy’s studio was included in the 8th Annual Brown County Studio and Garden Tour, a self-guided route of more than a dozen artists and craftsmen of the area.

While she does most of her selling from her studio, she does participate in occasional shows, something she began doing when she and her husband lived in Sydney, Australia from 1999 to 2002.

In spring 2006, she participated in the “Blooming Artists” show at the Chateau Thomas Winery in Nashville. The Chateau Thomas show has led to an ongoing partnership. “Geoff Thompson asked me to leave my pieces after it was over,” she recounts. “He’s continued to sell them, and I really appreciate his support.”

She finds that kind of support to be characteristic of the Brown County arts community. “Everyone I’ve met is very willing to share ideas,” she says.

Judy will participate in the Art Alliance’s show at the Brown County Art Gallery over Labor Day weekend. “I’ll exhibit the basket and maybe a ribbon platter,” she says.

Prichard will host her studio’s grand opening Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The full array of her work will be on display at that event.

Prichard can be contacted at (812) 344-4186 or <oakgrovepottery@earthlink.net>, or visited at <www.oakgrovepottery.com>.