I took my Indiana Folklore class to the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at IU last week. We were researching Indiana’s pottery traditions. I was specifically interested in the Museum’s collection of pots and jugs attributed to the Hendricksville pottery, in Green County Indiana. Ellen Seiber the Curator of Collections at the Mathers was very helpful and knowledgeable of the holdings. As we, both looked at the pots we tried to find commonalities between the artifacts. We quickly realized that we were unsure what “real” Hendricksville pottery looked like.
Ellen pulled out a small green pitcher that a Mrs. Witham had donated to the Museum years ago. The piece had been made by the potter Charles Hendricks, who had made it for his mother, ever since then the family had passed the pitcher down from eldest daughter to eldest daughter. However, Mrs. Witham daughter Sybil passed away without having a daughter of her own. Sybil asked her mother to donate the family treasure to the Mathers Museum. As we compared the small cream pitcher with the other utilitarian wares, we began to doubt the family story. The pot was so different. It was small and thoughtfully rendered. The green glaze through Ellen and I. However, as we were putting away the artifacts, Ellen called to me to come look at what she found. In a box of old shards and waste materials from near the kiln site in Hendricksville was a small piece of slag with a long drip of green glaze that matched the family cream pitcher. We had found a piece of Hendricksville Pottery.
Research and teaching museums are great places to study the works of Artisan Ancestors! Usually the staff and volunteers are very helpful and know legible of their collections, and enjoy seeing their collections used.
I would love to have people share photographs and stories of stoneware and redware items from Indiana. Very little is written on the topic and I am trying to make myself more informed about the understudied tradition in Indiana.