What most surprises Elliott Hutten of Hog-Shed Studio Pottery of Otto is that customers keep coming back.
That’s surprising in and of itself, considering that Hutten crafts some of the most ornate and simple functional and decorative pottery in Western New York.
And like her neighbor, Robin Zefers Clark, a watercolorist of note who works and displays her work at Brookside Studio Watercolors, she will open her studio to the public as part of a formal open house on Nov. 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Part of the East Otto Country Associates group, Hutten has attracted many of her most loyal customers through the Open House, which aims to show the public where some of the most beloved works of art in Western New York are made.
“It’s a very intimate experience for those who come here,” Hutten said in her studio, which serves as both a functional space equipped with a kiln, potter’s wheel and, in its own separate room filled with stones for a floor, a store. Lining five walls are a variety of high- and low-fired pottery pieces, from mugs and plates to bird feeders and vases.
Hutten moved with her husband, Michael, to their present location in 1976. They had been living in Buffalo until then and wanted more space for her pottery business, which started in earnest after she discovered her love for it. A graduate of Damon College, Hutten studied oil painting, but when she thrust her hands into clay she found, much to her surprise, her calling.
“I just love working with it,” she said.
In 1982, she and her husband formed Hog-Shed Studio Pottery, and it’s slowly become a destination of interest for pottery lovers ever since.
“People love that each piece is unique, not something you find in chain stores,” she said. “I mean, the pieces are relatively the same, but the kiln fires each piece in a distinct way. It’s a fascinating process.”
Using a propane-fired kiln in the back room, Hutton and her husband fire the kiln to 2,400 degrees, enough to glaze each piece so that they become, among other things, dishwasher safe. The less porous each piece is, she explained, the more durable it is.
Pottery making is an ancient process. Creating the desired piece out of clay, Hutten fires it once and it becomes green ware; a second time, it becomes a bisque. Then it’s waxed and glazed before being fired again, which is the last step before it is placed on the shelf. Holding up a near-finished plate, Hutten shows how various colors become other colors after they are fired.
Most amazing is how designs beneath the colors emerge during a firing.
When people show up for the Open House, Hutten said they will have a chance to see how it’s made and where the pottery is kept. Kids will have the opportunity to take clay and mold it into something unique and, quite possibly, useful.
“It means a lot to people to see where the pottery is made,” she said. “It amazes them so much. I think it’s why so many return.”
At 64, Hutten has little left to prove in the pottery world. She’s experimented with wood-fired pottery in the past and is doing so more and more. In cooperation with a group in Chautauqua County, Hutten just recently put a batch in the wood fire over the weekend. The colors and designs that emerge from such a kiln are nothing short of amazing, she said.
For more information, visit www.hogshedpottery.com or call (716) 257-9549 or 244-2967.