unexpected gifts

July 28. 2000

Two years ago, I was in the Mount Gretna Art Show. I had just come out of Governor's School a couple weeks beforehand, and I was riding a high of confidence with myself and my work that I haven't felt since.

I remember the first day of the show, Saturday (it was a two day affair), I left my parents to babysit my stand while I looked around at other crafters. Some work I was amazed by, others I wondered how they got into this show. There was this one man, Royce Yoder, whose work immediately caught my eye. I knew he was from around the Lancaster/Lebanon area, and remember Deborah talking about him with great admiration. "He's the most disciplined and talented potter I know," she said, "He'll sit down and crank out 500 pots in a day, all alike. He's really got his craft down."

That's the thing if you want to be a production potter. Not only do you have to sit down and come up with an asthetically pleasing design, but then you have to train yourself to make that same design consistently, over and over again. And I think that's what makes pottery so special. It's not like a painting where you sit down and do it once and it's done, frozen in time with whatever the artist was thinking and feeling at the time. Even if you make the same piece of pottery over and over again, there is a continued evolution. The movement, the evolution of clay is what I love.

I approached his stand. His work was absolutely, stunningly beautiful. Bottles, crocks, casserole dishes, plates, mugs, cups...all continuing the same few themes. From what I remember, one theme was a glossy dark brown, mint green, white and purple. The other was a deep matte red, yellow and a dark mottled blue green. I recognized the blue as Albany Slip, a glaze that had recently been discontinued and was thus being hoarded by potters all over the world. I asked him about this, and he said, yes, it was Albany Slip, his last little bit of it. That started a nice conversation that lasted quite a while. I told him where my stand was, and he said he'd try to make it over to see my stuff. It felt quite special, being only 17 and treated like a mature, adult artist by someone who obviously knew what he was talking about.

Before I left, I picked out one of the Albany Slip bottles to buy. I brought it to the counter, and as I was digging out my wallet from my purse, I heard him say very quietly, "Put your money away."

I looked up quickly, wondering if I had somehow offended him and now he didn't want to sell me the bottle. He leaned in close to me, and said, "Every show I give one piece of mine away."

He wrapped up the bottle in a paper bag and handed it to me. I was speechless, but managed to stammer some thanks before I tucked the paper bag under my arm and walked away, stunned by this wonderful, unexpected gift.

the bottle