Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Story of Rowantrees

by Mary Ellen Chase
(Printed here with permission)

In 1934 the Rowantrees Kiln, named for the mountain ash trees above its green gate, was built by Adelaide Pearson of Blue Hill. She conceived it first as a village hobby, as a place where those interested in working with their hands might find avocation and pleasure. It has long since, however, taken unto itself a dignity and a worth perhaps not clearly apparent in its beginning. For its founder, encouraged by Mahatma Gandhi whom she visited in 1939, became aware that the making of pottery is too much bound up with the life of countless centuries in the most ancient lands, from the hill towns of Italy to the deserts of Palestine, ever to be merely a hobby; that it is instead an art, symbolic not only of the material needs of mankind, but of its spirit as well.

During the years since, the Rowantrees Kiln on one of Blue Hill's lovely old streets has become the magnet to thousands of visitors. They come from near and far to watch the dexterous and careful hands of the potters shape the clay on the wheel and the equally skillful hands of those who apply the unique Rowantrees glazes to the vases and mugs and plates, bowls,pitchers and cups, which have had their first baking in the hot fires of the kilns. They learn too of the riches waiting in Blue hill's abandoned copper mines, in her quarries and bogs, ponds and seashore-granite, manganese, diatoms, copper and iron. These minerals, searched for and gathered by Laura Paddock, the first manager of Rowantrees, and her willing helpers, and ground to a fine powder, lent to the local marine clay the rich shades and depths of color rarely found elsewhere.

The craftsmanship is a very real expression of the art of rural America. And more, it is, like all art, an outward and visible sign of the inward and spiritual grace which, through the hands and the understanding of men, redeems our troubled times and makes us suddenly conscious that symmetry and beauty still remain among us and suggest forevermore the values by which we live.

Sheila Varnum, one of Laura Paddocks helpers, and a potter at Rowantrees since 1940, now manages the continuation of the art, tradition, and high quality which have become synonymous with the pottery wares of Rowantrees.

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