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Cummington potter’s wares a study in form and function

  • Eric Smith says his pottery includes functional pieces, such as this  chicken waterer, a heavy jug that farmers once made to water chickens.<br/>LAURA RODLEY<br/>

    Eric Smith says his pottery includes functional pieces, such as this chicken waterer, a heavy jug that farmers once made to water chickens.
    LAURA RODLEY
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  • Eric Smith, owner of E.M.Smith Pottery Studio of Cummington, stands at his booth at the Ashfield Fall Festival, where he sold his salt-glazed pottery over the Columbus Day weekend.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

    Eric Smith, owner of E.M.Smith Pottery Studio of Cummington, stands at his booth at the Ashfield Fall Festival, where he sold his salt-glazed pottery over the Columbus Day weekend.
    LAURA RODLEY Purchase photo reprints »

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  • Eric Smith says his pottery includes functional pieces, such as this  chicken waterer, a heavy jug that farmers once made to water chickens.<br/>LAURA RODLEY<br/>
  • Eric Smith, owner of E.M.Smith Pottery Studio of Cummington, stands at his booth at the Ashfield Fall Festival, where he sold his salt-glazed pottery over the Columbus Day weekend.<br/>LAURA RODLEY

Cummington potter Eric Smith was one of many sellers of wares at the Ashfield Fall Festival over the Columbus Day weekend. His display included earth-tone pots that were the first batch fired in his newly completed outdoor kiln, he said.

The firing in the 150-cubic-foot kiln at his E.M. Smith Pottery Studio, located at his Nash Road home, took place in July, he said, just prior to the Hilltown Six Studio tour, featuring the workshops of half a dozen Hilltown potters later that month.

Many of the pots sold at the end of July, he said.

Holding up a tall beige vase at his festival booth, he explained he doesn’t decorate the pots by painting glaze on their surface before firing. Instead, he uses a salt glaze, putting salt on the pots during the firing process that creates a smooth and glossy, though mottled, finish.

In answer to a fairgoer’s question, Smith explained that one of the pots was a “chicken waterer,” made specifically for watering chickens.

“It’s an old traditional pot,” he said. “Farmers used to be potters as well, and made things for the farm.” The chicken waterer looks like a jug with a curved lip carved on the bottom of it that creates a font for drinking, with an inner lip that follows the shape of the pot. The pot is heavy to avoid tipping over.

Pointing to the raised outer lip, he said, “This lip is higher than the inside lip; it creates a vacuum. Farmers used to take them down to the pond, lay them on their side, and fill them up,” he said. Theyn they would set them out for the chickens. Nowadays, he said, it’s hard to find the pots except in antique stores. Over the last 10 years, since he became a full-time potter, he said he has enjoyed making functional pieces of pottery like the chicken waterer.

He sold his pots at the fall festival when he lived in Ashfield, before moving to Cummington to build his studio. Three years ago, he returned to the festival to share lawn space with his brother-in-law, artist Greg Ruth, illustrator of “Our Enduring Spirit with Barack Obama.”

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Church benefit

Donations of locally produced items, crafts, services or events are still being sought for the upcoming 11th annual West Cummington Church benefit auction and dinner Saturday. Already many items have been donated, and over half the 90 dinner tickets have been sold. All are welcome. Proceeds will benefit church programs and activities.

Items range from an airplane flight and dinner donated by Norman Baker of Windsor to an hour-long private yoga session taught by yoga teacher and Plainfield resident Darlene Graham. “Some people have been donating five days of pet sitting,” said Graham, who is also selling tickets to the dinner.

There is choice of vegetarian or nonvegetarian dishes prepared by Alice Cozzolino and Amy Pulley, owners of the Old Creamery Grocery Store, where dinner tickets can also be purchased. Registration for the auction begins at 4:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 5:40 p.m.

The auction begins at 7 p.m. and bidding will be fast, organizers say. People should pick up and pay for their items by 9 p.m. Tickets cost $20 for the dinner that will be held at the Parish House, 27 West Main St., West Cummington. To purchase tickets, call Graham at 634-8098 or the Creamery at 634-5540. Donations forms can be downloaded by following the auction link at www.westcummingtonchurch.org.

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Murder Mystery Dinner

Who dunnit? The Comical Mystery Tour will solve another murder during Deadly Chateau Shenanigans’ Murder Mystery Dinner Theater in Northampton Friday. Proceeds benefit the six-member Cummington Mustangs 4-H Horse Club. The show is directed by Greenfield resident Ken Adams. The cast of characters includes host Cza Cza Grabmore, with the assistance of her French maid, Sue Fley, and sleuth Detective Codumbo.

“All have a history with Cza Cza,” said Carrie Cranston, Ashfield resident and club leader. “One of them turns the tables on her and the audience has to find who did it — the murder when it happens, happens offstage. It’s totally kid-friendly.”

Proceeds will help pay for an upcoming murder mystery weekend for club members at Ridin-Hy Adirondack Ranch, said Cranston. The 6 p.m. dinner show, which will take place at Sakura Asian Seafood Buffet, 261 King St., Northampton, costs $32. To buy tickets, call Cranston at 628-0152 or email her at cummingtonmustangs@msn.com.

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Plainfield Historical Society

The Plainfield Historical Society will have a table at the Hilltown History Conference and Fair that takes place at the Colrain Central School at 22 Jacksonville Road Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The conference will feature Leonard Richards, a retired professor of history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who will give the keynote speech, “Rebellious Hilltown and the War of 1812.” Admission to the conference is $45. The fair will take place at the same location from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free. Plainfield resident Judith Williams will be present in the guise of Lydia Richards, one of Plainfield’s early settlers. For information, call 625-2555.

Laura Rodley can be reached at lrodley.gazette@gmail.com.

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