CALLICOON, NY — Ellany Gable, the owner of Honey Hill Pottery, got her start in New York City, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics at Hunter College. “When I was in my first class, the professor demonstrated the making of a bowl. He had a lump of clay that turned instantaneously into a big bowl. I was so taken by the transformation that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up! From that time forward, I knew in my heart that this was the chosen path for me.”
Her working friend, Sharon Froelich, earned her bachelor’s degree in Ceramics at Sacramento State University in 2008. Rose Biondi, a student helper, comes once or twice a week. The studio is located in the midst of dairy farms and mountains outside Callicoon. Gable has been creating pottery here for 30 years, and earns half of her income as a piano tuner. Her love, though, is the studio. “With pottery, it’s all about timing, and you have to be in a relationship with the clay: how dry it is, how wet it is… because there is a moment when you have to work on it. Intricate carvings or joining pieces together, such as a spout or a handle, have to be done when it’s leather-hard.”
She uses four types of clay: porcelain; and white, black and buff stoneware. It is purchased in Kingston or Highland Mills, and comes in 50-pound packages. She has six wheels, each of which have speed adjustments and an accelerator pedal.
After the clay is basically formed on the wheel, it is “greenware.” When the shape is leather-hard, it is turned upside down and a bottom rim is shaped. It can be glazed at this point, prior to putting it in the kiln, or afterward. The glaze is chosen from several colors, and is applied by dipping, brush or glaze trailer, which is done by pouring it into a squeeze bottle with a fine tip.
Another material, “slip,” is a colored liquid clay that can be applied before the kiln firing. The kiln can hold up to 40 average-size pots, and it is initially set at 1,650 degrees Fahrenheit.
After the kiln, it is “bisque.” Later, it goes into the kiln again, this time at 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit to produce the final work.
“I like doing one-of-a-kind pieces, and really don’t do much production work. Each one is a work of art.”
Gable also makes Raku, a style of pottery that uses a Japanese firing technique. “Once the glaze is melted, it is pulled from the kiln in a red-hot state. It is then lifted with tongs and placed in a metal barrel or hole in the ground with combustibles—paper or leaves—and covered with a metal lid. When the fire has gone out it is rinsed with water and scrubbed. The glazed part remains shiny and the other portions have absorbed a gray tone from the ash,” she said.
A display of bowls with a wide brown border and grooved vertical stripes caught my eye. She explains the design as “terra sigillata,” or “sealed earth,” made with fine clay slip and pigments. The pieces are burnished by quick rubbing, and grooves are made prior to glazing. “In this studio, we don’t use lead-based glazes. Everything is food and dishwasher safe, and microwaveable.”
There are several dozen coffee mugs or tumblers for sale, meant for hot or cold beverages. Fifty percent of the proceeds is donated to the Ukrainian Global Crisis Relief Fund.
Recently formed is a nonprofit organization, the Callicoon Clay Co-operative LLC, which provides classes to underserved children and families.
There is a range of prices, and most customers are likely aware of the expertise and ingredients that go into the creation of each piece.
Initially, Gable ran ads on WJFF and local newspapers, plus flyers. Ten to 15 years ago, she held single-woman shows at the Catskill Arts Space and at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance, which also provided her with a grant. Private donors and a growing public response have led to her success.
Her pieces can be found online at honeyhillpottery.com, and orders can also be placed by phone at 845/807-2988. Orders are wrapped, cushioned and double-boxed, and shipped by UPS, Fedex or U.S. mail. Payments are through Paypal or Venmo or by credit card.
Honey Hill Pottery is located at 119 Diehl Rd. in Callicoon.
The gallery is open Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., or by appointment. A sale and open gallery, “Holiday Handmade 2022,” will be held on Friday, November 25, from 12 noon to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays and Sundays, December 3, 4, 10 and 11, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There will be a raffle and refreshments.
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