Clay City Pottery

Anyone gardening in Indiana knows about the challenge of our clay soil. I remember digging in the mud with youngsters at a local creekbed before sifting and straining it to make sculptures and pottery. The kids tapped into the excitement of this messy, elemental substance: what could be more fun than gathering up squishy stuff and molding it into dinasours, baby birds, and bowls?

Clay City Pottery in Clay City Indiana is one of the few family potteries still making traditional stoneware.

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Pottery at the Near West Bloomingfoods
This is the kind of pottery my great-grandparents hauled north when they moved from Kokomo IN to Cando ND over one hundred years ago: clay spongeware crocks and glazed bowls for baking bread and casseroles. The fifth and sixth generations of the Griffith family now run the Clay City Pottery factory, creating a traditional product that remains both beautiful and useful.

Very little about the crafting process has changed since the factory was opened in 1885 by Beryl Griffith, an English- Welsh potter. In 1927, Beryl's son Clyde and grandson Lloyd built the large kiln still used today. In the early 1960s Lloyd replaced the old steam engine that had driven the potters' wheels since 1914, converting the factory to electricity. Lloyd converted the kiln from coal to gas around 1971. Lloyd's daughter Cheryl inherited the business in 1979, since making the pottery available in many places around the country.

The original Griffith family methods of making glazes, processing local clays, and producing utilitarian stoneware are still in use today. The stoneware is formed by a process called "jiggering," adopted around 1900, and many of the molds are originals made by founder Beryl Giffith. The traditional look of the Clay City wares still involves quite a bit of hands-on work. Slight differences in the surfaces of individual pieces give them character and make them resemble antique bowls costing much more.

We offer Clay City Stoneware for sale at the new Near West Bloomingfoods, where it is hard at work throughout the store: in the produce department holding garlic and other organic fruits and vegetables, and in the deli cases displaying fresh salads and other take-home items. You can purchase bowls, crocks and even piggy banks from among those on display in our café's classic Hoosier cabinet.

Traditional stoneware is kiln fired for about 72 hours at a temperature of 2300 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes it very durable and dishwasher-, oven-, and microwave-safe. The glazes contain no lead, making Clay City stoneware safe for all foods. While it looks great on display, it is hardy enough to be used every day, as it is here at the co-op. Food stays warm and serves well in traditional stoneware crocks and bowls, making it ideal for cornbread, chicken casserole, fruit pies or cobblers.

Clay City Pottery can be found 39.4 miles west of Bloomington, in Clay City IN. The factory operates from 9am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays in April through December from 10am to 2pm. A visit to this unique business makes a great day trip!