Gowensville, a Potter, and a Teapot

Published 4:58 pm Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It’s a rainy morning and I’m on my way to Gowensville to talk with Jim Cornell. I’ve noticed his sign on the highway, Cornell Art Pottery, and I’ve decided to explore a little. Knocking on the studio door, I’m welcomed by Jim into his cavernous studio, filled with everything needed to produce his beautiful creations.
There’s a fire burning in his wood stove so we pull our chairs up. I inquire, “How did you become a potter?” I’m surprised to learn that he started out as an accounting major at the University of Central Florida. “I needed one more course and my advisor suggested a pottery class.
I found myself spending more and more time in the pottery studio.  I did get my Business Degree and a Minor in Pottery, then went on to get a Master’s in Pottery in Wichita, Kansas, where the wind never stops blowing. Then I returned to Florida.”
He quickly learned like many artistic, creative careers, it would be difficult to start out making a living selling his pottery.  “I didn’t covet a starving artist’s life,” he smiles. “I found a job as an office manager in a ceramics supply house, then taught pottery at a private school.”  When his parents moved to the Carolinas, he also relocated.
“It seemed like a central location for the Pottery Shows from Pennsylvania to the South.
In reality, I do shows mostly in this area,” he reflects.  Jim’s a member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild, Carolina Designer Craftsmen, and Piedmont Crafts, juried organizations for Potters. His market includes approximately 50 retail shops carrying his products throughout the year.
We wander around the studio as Jim explains some of the equipment, methods he uses, and the technicalities of making pottery.  Not all of the pottery is made on a wheel. “I was beginning to show signs of carpal tunnel and realized I needed to vary the methods I used.  I purchased a roller type machine and began making some slab pottery.”  He pointed to an unusual shaped teapot.  “I was looking for a specific shape, but wasn’t really sure what that shape was,” he explained. “Then one day in an antique shop I discovered one of those old irons that were heated on a wood burning stove.  I knew that was the perfect shape that I was looking for. I created a teapot and it’s become one of my best selling pieces.”
Jim doesn’t use commercial glazes, preferring to create his own.  He pulls out a well worn notebook filled with glaze recipes, some neatly typed, some on pieces of torn Kraft paper.  He shows me bags filled with different chemicals, like silica, talc, feldspar and dolomite, required in the recipes. “The glazes are my biggest challenge.  I’m still nervous until they come out of
the kiln”
Recently he had a request for a cane holder.  It’s a large piece so Jim had to make it in different sections, then combine the sections to complete the piece.  In the kiln area he shows me a large kiln made from bricks, needed to fire the large piece.
My adventure in the pottery shop comes to an end.  I add my name to his mailing list for his Christmas Show in his gallery.
I just might be purchasing one of those iron-shaped teapots for my collection.
For more information, visit: www.jamescornellpottery.com.

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