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‘As the wheel turns’

Local woman throws herself into her pottery

February 8, 2014
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

ELKINS - An Elkins resident throws herself into her hobby - literally. Carrie Shupp has been throwing pots, plates, vases, cups and a plethora of other pottery for more than 10 years.

Shupp said her hobby came as a result of a requirement for graduation.

"Davis & Elkins College is a liberal arts school and they require that you take an art class," Shupp said. "I took an art class, and that is where my love for making pottery came from."

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Elkins resident Carrie Shupp shows pottery she has thrown that is drying. Once dry, pieces will be fired in her kiln, glazed and refired.

Shupp said her instructor at D&E was Doug Penn, from Fairmont.

"He was wonderful. He was so excited that I could center and throw, and at first, I made lots of espresso mugs. That was as far as I could get."

Someone told Shupp that the Randolph County Community Arts Center offered pottery classes, so she studied there.

"A friend I had helped in the RCCAC classes went out and bought pottery equipment, and upgraded, so I got their old equipment," Shupp said.

"I own a Brent pottery wheel and a cone kiln."

Even though Shupp makes pottery, she said she really considers herself a


"I would love to have a studio or an area in a garage or basement for my


"I make a bunch of stuff, but I sell it to buy more supplies and keep up the maintenance on the kiln," Shupp said. "I do enjoy the hobby, but it gets to be a bit much. Right now, I have orders for 30 mugs. I want to get them made and get them out."

Shupp said she purchases the clay from Pittsburgh or Charleston. She uses stoneware clay, chocolate clay and porcelain clay. She buys clay in blocks and said she usually purchases 175 pounds of clay at a time.

"Each block weighs 25 pounds. Clay is about 45 cents a pound. Clay is stored in a cool, dry spot."

She uses the clay to throw her pieces and make them into useful objects. Once the pieces are thrown and dried, they are fired in the kiln. Then they are hard - or bisque - and are ready to be glazed.

"I also wax-resist the bottom so the glaze does not run onto the bottom. The rest gets glazed and then they are done."

Shupp also makes hand-built items that are sculpted from the clay. She creates different styles of fairy figures to use as pulls on the lids of pieces.

She said she uses different colors of glazes on her pieces - but sometime she just clear-glazes them to let the natural beauty of the clay show through. Each of her creations is glazed and can be used with food, and is safe for dishwashers and microwaves.

Shupp said the main difference between pottery and ceramics is how the pieces are made.

"In ceramics, pieces are poured into molds. In pottery, clay is thrown and made into pieces or is hand-built into items."

She said she works on making pieces on Fridays, and sometimes she lets the feel of the clay determine what piece she throws.

"Other times, I have pieces I know I have to make because I have orders for them."

Shupp takes part of the clay and pats it from hand to hand to remove any air bubbles, then she throws the clay onto the center of her wheel.

As the wheel turns, she wets her hands and works to center the lump of clay in the center of the wheel. She moves her fingers into the center of the piece, making a ring-like pattern in the clay. Next she moves her hands up the sides, bringing height to the piece.

"I always move my finger across so it does not bubble," Shupp said. "I dig into the piece to widen it and I clean up the bottom. Next, I clean up the foundation. If you have a foundation that is off, everything is off. Then I raise the piece. I push the clay from the bottom to the top. The final step is to remove the piece from the wheel so it can dry."

WV Dirty Girl Pottery offers many of Shupp's pieces for sale including mugs with cat paw prints, Harry Potter-themed mugs and mugs featuring the "tree of life."

Shupp said she keeps up with trends in pottery by taking classes, networking with friends and reading books. She also does demonstrations at art events and schools.

Items made by Shupp can be viewed at the WV Dirty Girl Pottery Facebook page.



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