The leaves hung on quite long this year due to the lack of rain, and the weather was quite warm. I was able to get about fifty bowls thrown and had started the mugs and baking dishes early for the Fall show on the annual Pumpkin Trail here in the surrounding area, local. I had expected a small turnout due to gas prices and thought I might have work left over to put toward the Christmas show. I was wrong about that. The Fall Pumpkin Trail show of 2022 was one of the best shows I have had out here regarding work sold. I fired out four kiln loads of pots to fill the building and was happy to see people show and buy the pots.
Sometimes, I worry some and plan on dusting, but somehow, things tend to pull together. At my other job at the paper factory, I don’t have the luxury of messing up or being wrong, but following processes and being told what to do means I am off the hook. If I follow directions, someone else is responsible for being wrong. But with the pots, I have the privilege of being wrong. I can try a thing six different ways and work out the bad ideas, then make a hundred of the one that came out that was good. As creators of handmade, we are wrong quite a lot, just like the folks in charge. But I find it far more fulfilling to be on the hook as the one who might mess up. That means I may be late with a kiln load, a candle cup run, or put off baking dishes until the next show. But somehow, I might have been right, and maybe quite by luck. It can be hard to tell.
When the pots came out, it was like the Fall foliage somehow got into the kiln. The iron in the clay came out to show under the glaze and gave some beautiful oranges and reds where the flame hit the pots. The rutile glaze gave off nice cream and mustard colors, where things were hotter and had more reduction. Fire week is always an exciting time but also stressful. When firing in updraft kilns, techniques are used throughout the firing at different times to bring about specific results. So a pot once put into the kiln is not finished but can still be worked on in the fires of the kiln.
Here at the pottery, it is my belief that the pots are only finished once it is enjoyed by the user. I like to follow where they go to work for a living, and I am interested in the stories of some of the places they end up. I started in a small way by collecting these stories. A favorite memory, or what it was like at the dinner table when you were growing up, or a recipe you tried that was passed down, all are a small part of the whole. We are all storytellers, to ourselves and each other. As a creator, I see the pots as little stories going out, and I’m always interested in hearing what story they become a part of once they leave.
Currently, now at the end of October, the rain has knocked off most of the colorful foliage, and the air has turned brisk. The oaks are still refusing to let go of their last leaves, local folks are starting their wood stoves, a thick frost morning frost is on the back steps, and the screen door handle is cold. But while Fall might be the end of one story, another is always starting. Something big was going down behind the big filing cabinet, in the big library, on the big hill, in the little town of Towanda, Pennsylvania.
A Cricket In The Library
There was a cricket behind the big filing cabinet, in the big library, on the big hill, in the little town of Towanda, Pennsylvania, in the United States, on planet earth, in the universe.
Jenny heard it while she sat at the big table working on her diamond painting. Somehow six blue pieces got in with the greens, and when you try to pick out the blues, the green stick to your fingers. She heard the cricket again as she held up the last blue diamond in the light. ” Got it!” Jenny said, holding it up.
“I think I heard a cricket. Did you hear a cricket?” Jenny asked.
“I think so.” said the health aid sitting next to her, scrolling Instagram photos on her phone.
“I know a cricket when I hear one. I would hear them all the time through the windows at night at the last group home I was at. I think we need to find him.”
“Well, If we are real quiet, we might be able to find out where the chirps are coming from,” said Denise, not looking up.
“There is it again. It’s behind that big filing cabinet, I know it. We should look behind there. I’m going to move it and look.”
” The cabinet is quite big..and we might need help if we…..”
“Ohh yeah, he’s behind there alright, come on Denise, help me move this thing I wanna see.”
“Well, maybe we should get Mrs. Benson first because it might not be a good idea to jump to moving furniture without asking anyone. They have the whole place set up a certain way, and moving just one thing could mess up the whole Dewey Decimal system.”
“I have no idea what all that is, but I do know there is a Cricket behind there, and I wanna see, so hurry and get Mrs. Benson while I try and slide this thing.”
” Alright, but hang tight until I get back. Folks have died from tipping cabinets and got in big trouble by librarians for messing up the Dewey Decimal system, so just stand guard, so the cricket doesn’t get away.”
Mrs. Benson looked like a librarian. Her dark hair with streaks of gray was fixed to the top of her head in a tight bun. She wore a properly fitted navy blue dress suit, and her glasses hung on a chain just below the blue bow tie around her neck. She was a retired navy nurse, and everything she did was level on the level and proper with patience and kindness.
“So Denise says we have a cricket that decided to visit the library today. Is that right, Jenny?”
“That’s right, Mrs. Benson, and I can hear him. I know he is behind this big filing cabinet. But we wanted to ask you for help and all so we didn’t mess up the Dewey Decimal system.”
Mrs. Benson was caught a bit off guard and had to laugh some and tried to hide it by putting her hand in fount of her mouth.
” That’s correct; we do have the Dewey decimal system. Let’s see if we can move this big cabinet out from the wall a little and have a look. I’ll need to get a screwdriver and remove the plates that keep the shelf from tipping. Let me find the toolbox in the back room.”
It did not take Mrs. Benson long to return with the flat-head screwdriver, and in four cricket chirps, she climbed on one of the sturdy old wooden library chairs and loosened the screws to the brackets.
” That should do it!” Said Mrs. Benson climbing down.
‘If we all push the edge from this side, it should slide right out from the wall for us to see behind. On the count of three!”
And with a push from them all, the big filing cabinet, in the big library, on the big hill, in the little town of Towanda, Pennsylvania, in the United States, on planet earth, in the universe, slid right out. All three looked behind. Jenny on her knees, the good Mrs. Benson standing, and Denise from up top standing on a chair. Sure as day, there was the cricket; it was sitting on what looked like a folded big piece of paper.
“Well, there he is, but I’m not sure what all that is behind there, but it could be important. Jenny can you reach the folded paper?” asked Mrs. Benson
“Well, I can almost..if I get in there just a bit more..almost ..got it!”
For some reason, the cricket did not jump as Jenny slid the paper from behind the narrow space. Everything came out together. Mrs. Benson took the big paper after Jenny cupped the cricket in her hands. With Denise follwing, Jenny went to the big doors and they both released the cricket back to the world in the cool brisk October breeze.
‘Off you go, little guy! Remember, your books are due back on November 10th. Have a great day!” said Jenny.
“This looks like an architectural drawing of the library!” said Mrs. Benson spreading the large paper out on the big oak reference table.
“Maybe we can find a treasure! Can I see?” asked Jenny
Mrs. Benson put on her glasses and looked over the drawing.
” Let me see…I do know that the big library was completed way back in 1897 and was funded by the good Frank Welles, who was a successful businessman who thought Towanda needed a library. Mr. Welles worked with Western Electric. He built many European factories and established telephone systems in cities there.”
“What’s this passage here?” Asked Jenny, pointing.
“Well, I’m not sure. I do know where all of these other rooms are, as the place has mostly stayed the same over the years and renovations. Let me see..we are here in the reference room, but it looks as if there might be another passage space. Yes, for sure! It should be just inside the main door on the right, but.. hmmm..there is no door.”
“They tap the walls.”
“What do you mean, Jenny by tapping the walls?”
“In the movies. They tap the walls, and if it sounds hollow, then there might be a secret passage. We should go tap walls. Come on, Denise, help me tap the walls.”
When Jenny wanted to do a thing, she was all in and would go right to it. So they followed while Jenny tapped the walls. Mrs. Benson carried the big architectural drawing as a guide down the steps almost to the front door on the right.
“Try right there, Jenny. Let me know what you hear.” Said Mrs. Benson pointing out the spot.
Jenny tapped, and a hollow sound echoed back.
“We need to bust down the wall. I bet this leads to a secret passage that leads to a secret treasure. I know it!”
“Well, this may be a bit more involved. I say we call the maintenance man, Mr. Naples before we start taking down walls. This is a beautiful historical building so we need to be really careful. I’ll give him a call; I think he planned to stop by later anyway to fix the rain gutters.”
Mr. Naples was already on his way in when he got the call about taking down walls. He went to the maintenance closet, got his hammer, and double-checked the map. He tapped around some and, finding the hollow spot, gave a few taps on the edges, and the eight-foot by four-foot section backed slowly out.
“It looks like it was simply covered over,” said Mr. Naples as a cool breeze blew in from the open hole.
“I bet those steps lead to the basement.”
“I’ll go first. Come on, Denise. I wanna see what’s down there.”
Jenny pushed through with a flashlight she picked out from Mr. Naple’s toolbox.
Mrs. Benson peered through the open wall and down the dark steps as Jenny, with Denise following, descended.
‘Be careful child! And good heavens don’t fall down the steps. I seen plenty of broken bones in my day, and I don’t wish it on anyone.”
The laid-up stone walls were damp and cold down the stairs. In front of them at the bottom, was a large wooden door with an old-time metal latch. Jenny tried it gently at first to see if it was unlocked. The latch lifted with a click, and the old door creaked open to the damp-smelling room with just a light push.
It was quite hard to place the smell as it was not completely of mold. It was more like the smell of old canning jars being brought up from the basement or like the box of old books in the corner of an old shed. Wood shelves lined the walls, and on the shelves of the damp room were a few glass jars, and in the jars were powders of different types.
“Sweet, we found a science lab!”
Jenny shined the light around the room as Mrs. Benson and Mr. Naples made their way through the door. Mrs. Benson stood up straight and brushed the cobwebs off her skirt and suit coat, and shivered some in the cool air.
What’s that in the corner, Jenny?”
“Over there on the left?”
“It looks like a wheel thing. It looks like you would push it with your foot and it spins. Denise, help me try to make it spin a little.”
“Well, I know what that is.” Said, Mrs. Benson
“That looks like a Leach Style Treadle wheel. Someone in the Welles family may have had a secret hobby and brought this wheel over from Europe.
“Be real careful and spin slow; we don’t want to break any parts. That might not have been used in a very long time. And I bet the powder you see in the glass jars here was used for mixing glazes. How nice!”
“Shine the light over there some Jenny I think I see something on the shelf.”
Jenny went to the shelf and stood up on an old wood crate to reach better and pulled an old book off the shelf that sat next to a few rustic handmade mugs and a few small bowls.
“Here, Denise! I’ll shine the light. Tell me what it says…”
“Well, let me see..A Potter’s Book. Bernard Leach.”
Mrs. Benson was now looking over Denise’s shoulder.
“Wow, that might be the very first edition. May I see the book?”
Mrs. Benson took the book and handled it as she handled all books with great care and gently turned the pages to find the date.
” Yes, I believe I am correct. The first edition was in 1949. I know because my grandfather had a copy when he tried his hand at pottery as a hobby after WWII. What a fantastic find, Jenny! This book is worth over $300.00, I bet. Also, the pottery looks rustic but quite well done. The Welles family may love them for a keepsake.
” I will call the Welles family and let them know and inquire about the wheel, the book, the pots, and the room. Maybe we could display the pots in the library. We better go back up to the library floor before anyone wonders where we all went.”
It doesn’t take much to find a treasure. And it may not always be what you expect, but a treasure none the less. Time is too short to wait, and if we follow the path, the very small can sometimes lead to big. And even better at times if we have the small, it can amount to the larger later like a seed or a small cricket behind the big filing cabinet, in the big library, on the big hill, in the little town of Towanda, Pennsylvania, in the United States, on planet earth, in the universe.
There may not be a real Denise, Jenny, Mrs. Benson, or Mr. Naples. But there was a real Mr. Welles, and there was a real cricket behind the big filing cabinet, in the big library, on the big hill, in the little town of Towanda, Pennsylvania, in the United States, on planet earth, in the universe. This is my story of my small town. So I will tell it how I like.
Creek Road Pottery LLC
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