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the word on the street

New biography of acclaimed potter Guy Wolff

Master potter Guy Wolff at work in his studio in Bantam, Conn.

Joe Szalay

Master potter Guy Wolff at work in his studio in Bantam, Conn.

Joe Szalay

Wolf drew a crown on an English-inspired pot.

Making of a master potter

Acclaimed potter Guy Wolff, now in his seventh decade, found his calling when he spent hours a day making pottery as a teenager. The Connecticut native attended High Mowing School, a private boarding school in Wilton, N.H., and there was a ceramic studio in the basement of the boys’ dormitory. “I lived in the pottery,” he told Suzanne Staubach, author of the new book “Guy Wolff: Master Potter in the Garden” (University Press of New England).

Staubach, a potter and gardener herself, has produced an illustrated biography that joins the details of Wolff’s career with a lively discussion of the frequently competing demands of craft and business. His work has earned praise from Martha Stewart, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, Horticulture magazine, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo.

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Wolff, who makes beautiful pots for plants and other uses that draw on old designs, is an expert on the history of ceramics in England and early America. He makes reproductions of pots found at Monticello and Mount Vernon. As the popularity of his wares grew, he faced new challenges: how to fill huge orders, train potters, and maintain quality.

Staubach quotes liberally from her interviews with Wolff, but she admits that reading his words on the page is no substitute for hearing the words come out of his mouth and watching him in action, throwing a 12-pound ball of clay onto the wheel, then another, spinning, pulling the clay up to great heights.

When the flag is up at Guy Wolff Pottery in Bantam, Conn., visitors are welcome to wander through the shop, studio, and garden and watch him at work. “He is a storyteller, an entertainer, and a teacher,” Staubach writes.

Days of wine and prose

BookStacks in Bucksport, Maine, has a new bestseller: wine. Bookstore owner Andy Lacher said sales have taken off since he started selling wine last month. He knows little about wine and can’t pronounce the names of much of what’s on his shelves, but his ex-wife and her husband are wine distributors, and they select the wines he sells.

Lacher, who opened his bookstore in 1997, was thinking about ways to boost sales when he came up with the idea. Bucksport, about halfway between Bangor and Belfast, had a wine store up until a few years ago when the owner decided to change careers. “There was this void that needed to be filled,” Lacher said. Now customers who pop into BookStacks to buy a newspaper are picking up a bottle of wine as well. “It’s really encouraging for me,” said Lacher, who is now planning his first wine tasting. Will there be a literary hook? He’s open to suggestions.

Coming out

 “Kentucky Traveler: My Life in Music”by Ricky Skaggs (IT)

 “Let Me Go”by Chelsea Cain (Minotaur)

 “Let Freedom Ring: Stanley Tretick’s Iconic Images of the March on Washington” by Kitty Kelley (Thomas Dunne)

Pick of the Week

Darwin Ellis of Books on the Common in Ridgefield, Conn., recommends “Snow Hunters” by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster): “With poetic language, this slim volume paints the unlikely portrait of a poor North Korean prisoner of war who, almost by chance, begins a new life in a low-key port city in Brazil rather than return home. Taken in by a kindly Japanese tailor, Yohan masters the trade, learns the language, and slowly becomes a member of this odd foreign family of two.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.
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