Welcome to Darrell Adams Pottery

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Family History

The earliest documented potters in my family were Jasper and Henry Bishop. They began making pottery in the mid 19th century in one of Georgia's "jug town" communities located in Upson County, about 50 miles south of Atlanta. There were many folk potters located in the area due to the availability of good stoneware clay. They made mostly churns, jugs, pitchers, and flower pots that were sold or bartered within a wagon's ride. Their pots were fired with wood in "groundhog" type kilns and glazed with Albany Slip or salt glazed.

My great grandfather, William Thomas Belah Gordy, learned the pottery business working for his great uncles, Jasper and Henry Bishop. In 1907, W.T.B. Gordy opened his own shop near Aberdeen, Georgia and later moved to Alvaton, Georgia. His work was much like the Bishop's and in fact he hired several Bishop family members to turn pots along with other itinerant potters, while doing most of the glazing and firing himself. As the demand for utilitarian pottery began to decline with more modern food storage methods, W.T.B. Gordy began to add "art potter" to his line of work. He began making a few basic colors in addition to Albany Slip. His wife, Annie, decorated some pieces with sculpted grape leaves or dogwood flowers.

W.T.B. Gordy's first child, Bill, my grandfather, was born in 1910. He grew up learning to make pottery from the many potters who worked in his dad's shop, in particular, Atlanta potter Charlie Kline and cousin Curtis Bishop. These two, he said, took a little more time to finish their work and do the job right. By the time he was grown, Bill was an expert turner and at the beginning of the Great Depression he left home to find better opportunities for work. He first worked in Ackworth, Georgia for Jim Reid, another potter who had worked for his father. Here he met my grandmother, Jewell Futral. They married and in 1932 moved to Hickory, North Carolina to work at the Hilton Pottery. This is where my mother was born. Later Bill worked at Kennedy Pottery in Wilkesboro, North Carolina and Smithfield Art Pottery, gaining much experience in making different shapes and glazes. During this period of working at different shops he kept a fascinating ledger book recording each day's production, since he was paid by the piece. The production ranges from nearly 200 small pieces in a day to 35, 10-gallon jars, each with 60 pounds of clay.

In 1935, Bill returned to Georgia and set up his own shop near Cartersville, The Georgia Art Pottery. He located the shop on US 41, the Old Dixie Highway, to have access to the tourist traffic. Although he continued to make some utilitarian pottery, his main emphasis was on the production of art pottery and the development of a wide range of colors. Among the glazes he developed were the first copper reds in Georgia and pastels including yellow, pink, orange, and blue. Until 1950, Bill Gordy fired with wood with most of the pottery fired in saggers. He also dug most of his clay by hand until 1970. In 1950, he added a new gas kiln and around this time developed his best known glaze, which he called Mountain Gold. With the cleaner firing process he also shifted production to more functional pottery, primarily kitchenware. In addition to selling his work through his shop he also participated in the Atlanta Arts Festival and the Southern Highlands Guild's Craftsmen's Fair. Bill Gordy was an extremely prolific potter, producing more than 700,000 pots including over 100,000 of his most popular cup. He was proud to tell you he could turn 36 of these cups in an hour. Throughout his career he continued to experiment with clay and glazes as well as different forms such as his redeye gravy bowl, ring jugs, and double-walled vessels. He continued to make pots until he was 83 years old.

W.T.B. Gordy's second child, D.X. (Dorris Xerxes), was born in 1913 and also grew up learning to make pottery, though at an early age loved to sculpt small figures from clay. While his older brother Bill was focusing on developing his skills as a production potter, D.X. began developing his skills as a unique, self taught artist. In 1935, W.T.B. Gordy and D.X. Gordy opened Gordy's Pottery in Primrose, Georgia, near Warm Springs and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Little White House. Like Bill's location in Cartersville, this offered access to tourists. Most of the pottery that is marked "Gordy's Pottery" was made by D.X. Gordy though W.T.B. helped with all aspects of production including digging clay, glaze preparation, and firing the wood burning kiln. In addition to his production of art potter and items for the Little White House gift shop, D.X. sculpted figures of cartoon characters and famous people, like F.D.R. Nativity scenes were also a favorite subject. He also made unique face jugs and pottery carved to look like wood. D.X. also developed his own unique approach to glazes with a particular emphasis on using locally found materials, which he would grind with a ballmill. This interest in using found materials began as a boy when he would put rocks in his dad's kiln to see what would happen to them. D.X. looked mostly to nature for inspiration and this was reflected in his use of found materials as well as plant ashes. He liked that he didn't know all of the various elements at work in his glazes. Both from the stand point of being surprised by the results and philosophically, believing there were intangible elements at work in the creative process. D.X. also painted landscapes on his pots and beginning in the 1950's, developed his own underglazes for painting his scenes. His favorite subjects were gristmills, covered bridges, and other old buildings located near where he lived. He said he felt he was trying to preserve a part of his life that was disappearing. From 1969 to 1975, D.X. worked at Westville, an 1869 restoration village near Lumpkin, Georgia. D.X. built a pottery shop modeled after his father's original shop along with treadle wheels and a groundhog kiln much like the Bishop's. This he used for making traditional, salt glazed pottery. D.X. Gordy was truly an original thinker in the design of his kiln, potter's wheels, clay mixer, and other equipment, as well as his philosophy as an artist.
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