Eileen & Marty Black Photo by Erica Mueller
Owners of The Potter’s Mark
Embracing both form and function has always been our goal. We strive to enhance the beauty of form with the gift of functionality. Our stoneware pottery is meant to be enjoyed by appreciating the beauty and valuing the utility. If using our pottery brings you delight then our mission has been fulfilled. ~ Eileen & Marty Black
Rapid River Magazine: Tell us a little about The Potter’s Mark.
Eileen: Our mission statement is what we are all about. We enjoy creating both beautiful and functional pottery that our customers love to collect and use. We have been told many times by our loyal customers “I think of you and Marty whenever I have my morning cup of coffee in one of your handmade mugs”
RRM: Talk a little about your glazes, especially the Copper-Red glaze and why red is a very difficult color to create as a glaze?
EB: Copper-Red is a finicky and frustrating glaze that takes many ingredients to formulate. Careful measurement of these ingredients is a must. Unfortunately Copper-Red is not as forgiving as our other glazes. It requires a special reduction firing atmosphere in a gas kiln to properly develop. Even with care, we sometimes get white instead of red.
The difficulty in producing a good “sang de boeuf” (oxblood) red is probably the reason only a small percentage of potters produce this glaze on a regular basis. After years of effort, Marty refined the glaze so it fits our clay and can be produced in quantities that do not require us to charge a premium price. Copper–red, like all of our other glazes, contains no Lead and is safe to use every day.
RRM: How did you first get into clay?
EB: First, I started with my left foot…..seriously, my first experience with clay was back in the 60’s as an art major at Queens College in NYC. I instantly fell in love with it, spending most of my time in a dingy, dirty, basement clay studio where most other students never dared to venture. I subsequently received a degree in art education.
After moving to Miami, getting involved with The Ceramics League of Miami, I knew that I was going to have a long love affair with clay. It was in Miami where I really learned how to be creative with clay. I was very fortunate, since during the winter months, many renowned potters, many of whom lived in the Midwest, came down to Miami to warm up and present meaningful and exciting workshops. I took advantage of every one I could. I could list the names of the famous potters I learned from, but that would fill up the whole issue. That was over forty years ago, and I have never lost my love for creating with clay.
Marty, an electronics engineer with five patents, quit engineering and joined me in 1999 with his new philosophy “If Man was meant to work with electrons, they would be big enough to see.” Marty found changing from using his analytical skills (left side of his brain) to artistic skills (right side of his brain) difficult. He said that “originally the right side was hollow, with nothing but echoes.”
After some formal education at the Odyssey Center in RAD and a great deal of guidance from me, his creative side developed and he started producing a great line of both functional and decorative pottery. He also does everything I don’t want to do, since he is the junior potter (although he is much older than me).
RRM: What makes pottery so perfect for daily dinnerware use, and what are your “best sellers” in stoneware?
EB: Our pottery is made from high fire stoneware and is sturdy, attractive and functional. Our best sellers range from mugs to complete dinnerware sets that contain our signature red glaze, although we have other exotic glazes that are close runners up.
We sell a lot of dinnerware to newlyweds who register on our website (www.pottersmark.com) and we provide them a free personal web page. It contains information that they want to share with their friends and relatives, along with images and a wish list of the pottery they would love to have as gifts.
RRM: You use a “High Fire” cone 10. What does that mean?
EB: High Fire, cone 10 means that our pottery is fired to 2350º F, which makes it strong and vitreous (does not absorb water). With proper care, our pottery can be put in a microwave, conventional oven, and is dishwasher safe.
RRM: Obviously not all clays are created equally. What properties does your clay offer that others may not?
EB: We purchase locally from Highwater Clays. Their white stoneware clay “Loafer’s Glory” is consistent and its properties allow us to produce our red glazes with confidence. The fit of glaze to clay is a very important factor in producing reliable pottery.
RRM: Pottery never seems to go out of style. Why do you suppose that is?
EB: Luckily for us, many customers consider handmade pottery as heirlooms and pass them down from generation to generation. The strength, functionality and beauty of pottery makes a keepsake for families to use and cherish. We still hear from customers who purchased our pottery almost thirty years ago, still adding to their collection.
The Potters Mark
122 Riverside Dr., Asheville,
Inside the Cotton Mill Studios