Cape Cod, the place to pot
“We have a lot of potters on Cape Cod,” said Ron Geering, a ceramic artist who has a gallery and studio in Woods Hole.
It’s easy to see why. With its subtle landscape for inspiration, quiet winter months to work, and active summer season to engage with visitors and make sales, Cape Cod is attractive to artists and artisans of all persuasions.
Travelers interested in handcrafted work, both functional and decorative, can visit dozens of clay studios and galleries from Wood’s Hole to Provincetown. Whether you like bright, shiny glazes or smoky matte finishes, mugs for coffee or decorative platters, the nonprofit organization Cape Cod Potters is a great resource for discovering what to do when you aren’t at the beach. www.capecodpotters.com
R. GEERING POTTERY, WOODS HOLE
When you spot a decoratively painted red and green fence, you’ll know you have arrived at Geering’s studio and gallery, located at the rear of the former Hose House No. 3 of the Falmouth Fire Department in Woods Hole Village.
A craftsman for more than 30 years, Geering is known for using traditional earthenware clays and glazes. Creating forms by hand or on the potter’s wheel, he then embellishes each piece with folk techniques of sgraffito, slip trailing, and combing that are scratched into or added onto the surface.
“I’ve always been interested in historical pottery,” said Geering.
His work includes reproductions of 17th- through 19th-century English and American redwares; contemporary designs depicting folk tales and whaling songs made with traditional slipware techniques; sculptural and whimsical animals, wizards, pirates, and Vikings; and his Cape Cod Olde Spott production line of ochre or green spotted mugs, cups, and more.
“I’m working in the tradition of slipware, what Americans call redware, and carrying it forward, adding modern designs and making it contemporary,” said Geering.
Tue-Sat 10 a.m.-5 p.m. In the offseason, Geering admits his “hours are quirky” and suggests calling first. 246 Woods Hole Road, Falmouth, 508-457-0841, www.geeringpottery.com
FLYING PIG POTTERY, WOODS HOLE
Tessa Morgan sells one-of-a-kind functional stoneware at Flying Pig Pottery, her gallery space and studio in Woods Hole. With an undergraduate degree in ceramics and a BFA in illustration, it’s no surprise that her signature work involves sgraffito, a technique of carving through a colored slip to reveal the contrasting color of the clay beneath the surface.
“I always loved to draw. In childhood and in my teens I wanted to be a children’s book illustrator,” said Morgan.
The landscape and environment of Cape Cod inspire Morgan’s color choices and imagery. She applies dark blue slips and warm brown and green glazes on a white clay body, and then carves images of squid, fish, whales, turtles, mice, cats, birds, and pigs. The result is a marriage of vessel and imagery as the creatures seem to swim, dance, and leap along the form.
“The movement of marine creatures works naturally on a piece of pottery,” said Morgan.
She also draws whimsical images from her imagination, including mermaids, elephants, lions, and giraffes. “I try to imbue a sense of humor into some of the pots,” she said.
In addition to a line of functional objects, including teapots, mugs, plates, bowls, vases, jars, pitchers, and more, Morgan makes decorative tiles and frames them with old dune fencing from the local beach.
Visitors are always welcome. “I never take in my open studio sign,” said Morgan. 410 Woods Hole Road, 508-548-7482, www.flyingpigpottery.biz
RON DEAN POTTERY, MARSTONS MILLS
“I’m basically a functional potter,” said Ron Dean, an artist who moved from New York to Cape Cod in the early 1980s.
At his studio and gallery, a space he refers to as “the barn,” Dean produces a variety of functional forms including platters, bowls, teapots, vases, and pitchers crafted in stoneware, porcelain, and raku. He mainly works on a potter’s wheel, though occasionally he builds forms with slabs.
Dean also produces decorative nonfunctional forms, his “burnished and smoked work,” using primitive firing techniques.
“My pots are made using white stoneware that is burnished then bisque-fired. Then I place them in a brick box with different things,” said Dean.
These include various natural elements such as seaweed, copper wire, and twine that he wraps around the burnished pieces before burying them in layers of seaweed, wood chips, and sawdust. This makeshift kiln is lighted, then allowed to smolder up to 14 hours. This process results in pottery marked with unpredictable smoky patterns and designs.
“I love chatting with people, explaining to them what I’m doing and the process,” said Dean, who posts the hours he is open on his answering machine. 1000 Osterville West Barnstable Road, 508-428-6085, www.rondeanpottery.com
NARROWLAND POTTERY, WELLFLEET
Joe McCaffery works in porcelain and stoneware, creating one-of-a-kind functional pieces that he fires in a gas reduction kiln. His work is known for its range of shapes and distinctive glazes such as pale green celedon, dark spotted temoko, crackle white, copper red, and copper blue.
“I’m a formal guy. My work comes from a love of the material. I try very hard to make very complete forms and have good glazes that compliment them,” said McCaffery.
At the studio and gallery he opened in 1993, McCaffery makes and sells dinnerware sets (plates, bowls, and mugs), platters, vases, pitchers, teapots, garlic pots, and lamps. In addition, you may find some of his wood-fired work — with subtle ash and glaze surfaces — produced at his friend Chris Guston’s kiln in Dartmouth.
“I feel an affinity for the material. I know if I push I can make good work,” said McCaffery.
Open year-round. Daily summer hours 10 a.m.-5 p.m. In the offseason, call first. 2603 Route 6, 508-349-6308, www.narrowlandpottery.com
BLUEBERRY LANE POTTERY AT BLUE GALLERY, PROVINCETOWN
Paul Wisotzky is both a studio potter and gallery owner. He makes his stoneware and porcelain creations at his studio in Truro.
“I’m influenced by the landscape of the Outer Cape, the colors, texture, and everyday beauty. I try to reference elements of it in my work,” said Wisotzky.
The majority of his pieces are crafted on a potter’s wheel, though he sometimes alters them by stamping or carving into the surface before firing them in soda and reduction kilns.
Wisotzky exhibits his pottery, along with a variety of crafts by 30 other artisans, in Provincetown. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, he throws pots on a wheel set up in the gallery.
“People don’t understand how things are made anymore. I love interacting with people as they watch me work,” he said.
Mugs, vases, honey pots, pitchers, oil decanters, and bowls are some of objects he likes to create.
“As a functional potter who makes things people use in their daily lives, I want to bring both function and art to everyday life, so that when you are drinking coffee in a mug it feels good in the hand and brings pleasure visually.”
Open May-December, daily in summer. In the offseason, call or check the website. 389 Commercial St., 508-413-9490, www.bluegalleryprovincetown.com