For nearly a century, East Liverpool dominated the United States pottery industry … During its peak production years (1865-1910), East Liverpool’s potteries produced and sold the majority of America’s crockery …
— The Pottery Capital of America, Ohio Historical Society
I live within an easy driving distance of the Pottery Capital of America. Like most people who live near a tourist destination, I have made it a practice to never go there — ever.
Like New Yorkers who have never seen the Statue of Liberty up close and personal, or citizens to the west who haven’t quite made it to the Grand Canyon, I have never bothered to buy so much as a shard of pottery from these fine locations.
Had it been left up to me this would still be true. My inaugural visit was at the behest of an out of town friend. (Tourists!) I intended to come home with nothing more than a souvenir salt shaker.
I like dishes. I have antique china that we use daily. The delicate, gold trimmed Homer Laughlin design hails from the days of tiny serving bowls and multiple plates and platters. If you should ever need four gravy boats or a bowl the size of a thimble — I’m your girl.
My husband’s grandmother worked for many years at Royal China and my own great-grandmother’s dishes were a pattern manufactured by that same company. Still, I have never become overly excited about dishes. Quite frankly, I mocked a friend who does.
I now have to eat my words — off of very pretty plates.
Homer Laughlin is actually Pottery Capital Adjacent, located just across the water in Newell, W. Va. To get there from here, one must span the Ohio River via a 75-cent toll and a narrow, mesh-bottomed bridge.
Don’t think of it as a commute. Think of it as an incredibly affordable thrill ride. Had I not been driving I would have closed my eyes the whole way.
Arriving at the “Motherland” (As Fiesta fans call it), we entered the dim recesses of the seconds outlet, or what I have come to call “The Pottery Mine.” This is where gently flawed but still lovable pottery awaits a new home.
We all knew I was going to visit the bargain bins right? Scratch and dent is our native language, after all.
In every corner, hovering just above the dusty concrete floor, a cascading shimmer of captured rainbow glimmered. There were bins of bowls, stacks of plates and a whole end of the room offering pitchers, creamers and mugs.
I sidled along the wall aisle, intending to grab a salt shaker and retreat to quiet safety. Some of these people were getting awfully excited over ceramics if you ask me. Then I saw it: smooth, scarlet, and deep enough to float a (toy) boat.
I don’t like to think of myself as a magpie attracted to shiny objects, but when it came to one absolutely perfect bowl, I was hooked.
Not for me, of course (she says selflessly), but for the children. BoyWonder is such a connoisseur of copious amounts of cereal that he uses small mixing bowls to serve it. Gusto bowls, conveniently the same size, would be my gateway drug.
It took maybe a minute, minute-and-a-half tops, for my “one salt shaker” plan to go remarkably awry. I started with a very strict idea of what matched. Then I just let go and went with what made me happy. Apparently this is everything. At one point I shared via social media a photo of a pile of dishes in a riot of color and only this line “WANT ALL THE DISHES!!!”
Eight dinner plates, eight salad plates, eight gusto bowls, one pie plate, a 2.5 quart bowl and a coffee mug later I qualified for a free 75th anniversary platter. Oops. Well, think of the savings! Local economy? Um, coffee? I’m still not entirely sure how that happened. Curiously, no salt shaker (yet).
It pains my Fiesta junkie friend that I don’t know the actual names for things. Apparently the colors you choose are as much your identity as your name, rank and serial number. I am now shamrock, peacock, turquoise, tangerine and scarlet. It looks like a circus blew up in our cupboards.
I have never shown the slightest interest in colorful dishes before today. I now have a wish list in my purse and a desire to go back for more. Right now.
Let me state for the record this stuff may be lead free and not prone to crack. Still, judging from my new found addiction, I’m thinking it might be glazed with some.