1772 Jeffery Road, Oregonia, OH 45054
BY GINNY STIMMEL
They met at the Workshops of David T. Smith, where Greg discovered his passion for traditional redware. In 1984, during a visit with Smith to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Greg saw his first collection of American redware. “I was stunned by what I saw there,” he remembers. “I was like a little kid with my nose against the glass. I couldn’t believe all those pieces were in one place.” He made a meticulous study of the old pottery. With David’s encouragement, he began to create traditional American redware; Greg and Mary started Shooner American Redware in 1993.
Redware is a porous, clay-based ware made impermeable by a lead-based glaze then fired in a kiln. The earliest evidence of American redware came from 17th-century Jamestown, Virginia, where potters used local clays to produce utilitarian items. (No matter what the original clay’s color, iron deposits cause it to turn red when fired.) Decoration was applied as slip-trailed designs (the process of drizzling liquid clay or slip across the slab’s surface); or sgraffito (designs scratched though the slip coating to expose the body of the ware).Greg and Mary work as a team at their 1860s Ohio farmhouse and barn workshop. He throws the pots and applies the slip decoration; she rolls the slabs and slip into the plates prior to kiln firing. Both of them do the sgraffito work. “Mine is more primitive,” Greg says. “Mary’s is much different, more refined than mine.” Mary also does the paperwork and assists at crafts shows. Prices of their redware range from $25 for small items to a high of $21,500 for a one-of-a-kind museum piece; auction prices have brought as much as $8,000.
Besides visiting museums and redware collections, Greg has also attended Eastfield Village Ceramic Workshop outside of Albany, New York, and traveled to England and Wales for “mudlarking”—picking up pottery shards along river banks. While visiting the Stoke-on-Trent Museum, he was granted unlimited access to their vast ceramic collection. In this country, the Shooners have lectured extensively on antique and reproduction American redware.
Shooner American Redware is exhibited and sold at various traditional craft shows throughout the year, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New England.
—GINNY STIMMEL is the former editor of Early American Life and Rug Hooking magazines, and a board member of the Association of Traditional Hooking Artists.