View to a kiln: With one last firing, a potter says goodbye to history

  • Sam Taylor, of Dogbar Pottery in Westhampton, and friends Greg Kerstetter and Rob Logan get ready to start the process of putting up the kiln door. Logan helped build the kiln 22 years ago. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Waiting for the door to go up on the loaded kiln. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Potter Sam Taylor puts wood into the kiln that takes somewhere between 16 to 18 hours to fire. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Taylor fires his kiln with the help of friend Bill Bennett. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Potter Sam Taylor works on putting up the door on a wood-fired kiln he built 22 years ago. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Tracy Martin takes a minute to make a painting while the kiln gets fired. She helped create the mosaic dog on the front of the kiln 22 years ago. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Potter Sam Taylor waits for some wood to stoke the kiln. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Potter Sam Taylor stokes the kiln with good friend and local potter Tom White. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Photo Editor
Published: 9/8/2020 1:49:42 PM

More than two decades have passed since my husband, Sam Taylor, built his wood-fired kiln for Dogbar Pottery in Westhampton. Last weekend, he fired it for the last time. He will build a new one, a different one, but this kiln has history. He built it as he builds everything — with help from friends, some potters and some not.

In 1998, we had been married for six years and had two small boys; a third one came two years later. Looking back, I can’t say I truly understood at the time how building that kiln would shape our lives. I know that at one point I panicked, thinking, Wait, that’s a large object that will not easily move! Does this mean we are here forever?

We fired in all kinds of weather, and, like the seasons, the firings created a cycle: a natural progression of making pots, firing, unloading and waiting for the next firing. My husband and our friends filled the kiln with 600 pots, and along with the amazing pottery that was created was a community that is impossible to capture in words. Often there were 30-plus people who came, sometimes up to 20 sleeping on floors. Children filled the yard. Snow forts were built, epic games of kick-the-can and basketball were played. Children who started as toddlers became adults. There was much laughter, some frustration, lots of food and lots of hard work.

Then came COVID and the last firing, which we held off as long as we could. It brought together 10 people and no children (well, except one who is now 32). We worked, stoked and fed the kiln with wood, while saying goodbye to all that history.

The kiln gets opened Wednesday, and the pots will be sold as part of the Hilltown 6 Pottery Tour. While Sam is sad to let this kiln go, he is also relieved. The kiln is unstable, and he is excited to build a new one — one that’s less of a bear to fire, one we can grow into as we grow older. I know he already has ideas for kiln number two. For Sam, making pottery is his purpose. It is more than a calling. It is his way of being: to create, not just pots but community.

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