Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, July 16, 1994, Image 42

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    82-Lancaster Farming, Saturday, July 16, 1994
JOYCE BUPP
York Co. Correspondent
EAST BERLIN (Adams Co.)
Becky Mummcrt is an expert
craftsperson who really throws
herself into her work.
A potter of both redware and
cobalt stoneware, Becky is known
throughout the area for her beauti
ful, handcrafted pieces, from
mugs, pitchers, platters and din
nerware to special-make items
commemorating local historical
happenings.
And it all begins with Becky
“throwing” a lump of damp clay
onto her potter’s wheel and using
the very most basic of tools her
fingers to shape the revolving
lump into a piece of raw pottery.
Having crafted thousands of
pieces over the last 20 years, she
forms the clay effortlessly, styling
the finished, graceful shape in a
matter of a mere minute or two.
“I’ve don this for so long, I can
almost do it with my eyes closed,”
quips this friendly, outgoing pot
ter, working in a new shop she
built just a year ago. But learning
to properly “throw” a piece may
take a novice a few months, espe
cially perfecting the centering and
learning how to avoid poking a
finger through the soft clay sides
during shaping.
While her thrown pieces begin
in the same manner, the two types
of pottery feccky crafts are dis
tinctly different.
“Redware and cobalt stoneware
arc about as different in process
and product as you can get,” notes
Becky. The two types of nottcry
arc created from different clays,
use different glazes and decorat
ing techniques, and arc fired in the
kiln to different intensities of heal.
Always interested in art as a
child, Becky followed high school
with studies at the Maryland Insti
tute of Art. When her husband was
completing his music degree at In
diana University, she became
friends with students in the cera
mics, or pottery, department. The
couple then moved to Louisiana,
Becky Mummert begins “throwing” a pitcher from a
piece of raw clay.
Potter Throws Herself Into Her Work
where he taught at the Northeast
Louisiana University and she be
gan pursuing her pottery interest
with classes.
“Those classes really ‘look’
with me,” she recalls, looking
back on the family’s properly
along the Concwago Creek, where
she grew up, and where the Mum
merts have made their home since
1980. While she did make some
pieces from the “homegrown”
clay, the processing of the raw
material of pottery is a tedious and
time-consuming effort.
“Clay is made of rock particles
that have broken down over thou
sands of years. It moves around
underground. For a potter to use it,
you must get out all the sticks and
the stones, melt it down and scive
it to remove all foreign particles.
Then it has to be aged,” she ex
plains. Purchasing her raw clay
from a local supplier is much more
efficient with her busy schedule.
Aging of clay may be done in as
little as a few weeks or for years;
sometimes Becky incorporates
vinegar into her clay mixes to has
ten the process. According to
Becky, Japanese potters bury clay
to age for intended use decades
later by their grandchildren.
From the mixing of the clays to
the covering witih the final glazes,
pollers constantly use chemistry
processes. Becky mixes as many
as five types of clays to get just the
right color and consistency she
wants to produce a certain kind of
finished redware or stoneware.
And since each batch of even the
same clay may vary sllightly in
shade, the finished pieces often
have subtle differences in colora
tion.
Redware is so called because of
the reddish-brown finished color
of the pottery, due to concentra
tions of iron in the raw clay used
to form it. After the piece has been
shaped by hand or formed through
rolling or molds, ornamentation is
applied while the clay is still wet.
Decoration may be applied with
i watered-down form of clay, call
The. are ti y, itter immert jsplays
the background are some of her other redware pieces.
ed ’‘slip.” Some decorations arc
dribbled, freehand, onto die clay,
poured out of a “slipeup.” More
intricate designs, drawings and
words are formed by “sgraffito,”
which means “scratch through." A
coating of the thin clay slip is ap
plied over the wet piece and the
ornamentation scratched through
the slip coating. All of Becky’s
artwork decorations are done
freehand.
After the first, or bisque firing,
in the kiln, the redware piece turns
a terra-cotta color, the familiar
bridk-red shade of clay flower
pots. After a coat of glaze is ap
plied, a second and hotter firing in
the kiln yields the finished, shiny
product of a darker, reddish
brown.
By comparison, cobalt stone
ware turns pink after the first,
light, firing in the kiln, necessary
to set the clay firm enough to han
dle. Decorations are then applied
to the fragile pieces, using a liquid
-ry pottery, both redware at.,
ware, goes through two firings In Becky’s kilns
cobalt, followed with an applica
tion of glaze. A second firing, to
temperatures reaching nearly
2,400 degrees, renders the stone
ware extremely durable and hard.
Redware is especially popular
for accent and decorator pieces
and in traditional, period settings.
Cobalt stoneware, because of its
durability and functionality, is of
ten purchased for more everyday
tableware use and for bakeware.
“It’s dishwasher proof and also
washes very easily by hand; my
husband can attest to that,” grins
Becky. During her busiest times of
area craft-show schedules, he of
ten lends a hand with customers at
her sales booth.
The Pennsylvania Dutch tradi
tions and heritage of the area have
heavily influenced Becky Mum
men’s work. Many of her redware
designs are reproductions, and
numerous historical muscufn
shops sell her pottery. Recently a
friend visited a Philadelphia mu-
favorite of her son’s. In
scum and related to Becky that
some of the pottery originals she
saw “looked just like yours.” Her
work has gone to many of the
stales and is often sought by cus
tomers as gifts to send to friends in
foreign countries.
Only rarely docs she find time
to make special items for herself
or her family. But a special re
quest from a friend some ten years
ago led her to create a whimsical
item, popular among gardeners,
called a “toadhouse.” Becky’s de
sign resembles an upside-down
clay flowerpot, with a small en
trance and a stylized toad shape on
top. The houses are designed to be
placed in gardens and entice toads,
which catch many insects, to make
their home among the plants.
With the building of her shop
last year a short distance from
their house, Becky was able to
move her equipment, supplies and
inventory out of rooms of their
home and into an area with more
adequate space and a display
room. She recently added a second
kiln as well. When the kilns arc in
use, Becky rarely ventures 100 far
away so she can monitor their pro
gress and the heat levels generat
ed. Even after a full day of several
hours in the shop, evenings often
find her back there, shaping hand
les for mugs and pitchers, unload
ing kilns, packing orders.
“I ate, slept,and drank this for
years,” Becky says of the long
hours she has regularly spent in
meeting private customer and
craft show sales. With their two
children through college and her
shop now a reality, she is reducing
some of her sales commitments
enough to spend more time enjoy
ing golfing.
Craft-show seasons are general
ly in the spring and again in the
fall before the holidays. On July
23, Becky will take part in the
third Annual Terre Hill Day in
Lancaster County, an arts and
crafts show of juried work. One of
her largest shows is the local Col
onial Days in East Berlin, and she
regularly takes part in the York
Country Crossroads Folk Art and
Craft Show at the York Fair
grounds, scheduled for November
19 and 20.
For more information, Becky
Mummert may be reached by tele
phone at (717) 259-9620.
itomestead
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