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Letter to the Editor

Pottery Program not “Just Playing in the Mud”

web posted April 6, 2010
Dear Editor,
A recent (Wandering Minds) posting suggested that PTC’s Professional Pottery was simply a group of people playing in the mud. That may seem true to someone not informed what the program involves and the people attending and their aspirations. The curriculum is approved through standards for all academic programs for the South Carolina Technical College System. Students enrolled take a full complement of courses in technical skills, glaze chemistry, design, as well as business and marketing.

Nearly all students enrolled have plans to start or expand a small business in South Carolina.  According to national statistics, micro businesses are the future for rural America and craft businesses are simply another way to make a living.  Students come to Edgefield on daily trips from Abbeville, Greenwood, Aiken, Columbia, and Augusta to work in the pottery facility. 

They take their preparation for business very seriously realizing that the professional competition is very good and they have to make high quality work to compare favorably. 

Students nearing graduation have spent nearly 50 hours in class this term going through what is necessary to start and operate a small business in South Carolina.  They have been designing their own marketing materials such as business cards, hang tags, use and care materials, artist statements and resumes. Currently, seven students are constructing home studios as the base for planned businesses and several more are in the process of making plans to do this.

On average each studio will cost about $10,000 to build and equip. These are investment dollars being spent in South Carolina with a variety of suppliers. Ultimately, these small business people will make and sell work through galleries, shows, festivals, and special events throughout the region. The customers for these products are often tourist-visitors from other places and therefore the money craftspeople generate is almost always new money for their local communities and it expands the economy. 

Two students are expanding long-standing businesses. One, an experienced basket weaver who has raised and educated her family and built a comfortable home with her craft has decided to expand her product line.  She now is making pottery forms and adding basketry for bases, tops and handles. Many of her baskets, gourd baskets, and now pottery baskets sell for several hundred dollars which customers readily buy. The second student is gallery owner who has added shelf space for his own pieces and other potters and is realizing a significant income from this addition.  He has also built a studio in conjunction with his gallery and is offering pottery workshops and private lessons generating additional income.

Recently, students from Professional Pottery traveled to Atlanta and attended the ACC Atlanta craft fair.  Visitors to this event paid $13 admission to get inside for an opportunity to buy craft work.  The arena floor was crowded with visitors and many carried bags with their purchases. Students recognized many of the participants and expressed ambitions of being an artist exhibiting in such events someday.

Yes, we do have fun “Playing in the Mud” but it has the ability to change people’s lives, offer economic benefits, and produce a product truly ‘Made in America’.

An additional note about the posting suggested PTC would sacrifice other academic classes but keep the pottery going. If PTC is forced to discontinue services in Edgefield, students in other academic areas travel to Greenwood, Saluda, or Newberry to campuses that are being supported by those communities and continue studies.  Pottery would have to faze out as students currently enrolled are given the opportunity to complete their program in Edgefield as no other campus has this program.  The program would be closed when those students completed the cycle.

Gary Clontz
PTC-Pottery Instructor

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