Exploring along the Ohio River: Among the many photographic subjects of interest to me, I'm always looking for opportunities to photograph people at work, particularly those who still make things by hand - an interest of mine that dates back to the 1970s. I discovered that there had been a thriving pottery industry in East Liverpool, Ohio, about 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh where I was passing through on a trip back east - it had once been known as the "The Pottery Capitol of the World" for the large number of pottery manufacturers in the area. The last remaining potters are now Hall China Co. and Homer Laughlin China Co. across the Ohio River in West Virginia, who acquired Hall China in 2010. In 1936, Homer Laughlin created the still popular, and collectible, Art Deco style 'Fiesta' line of dinnerware, which is now manufactured at the Hall facility.
I was also told that there were tours of the factory available at Hall China, where much of the work is still done by hand. Remarkably, with less than 24 hours notice the folks at Hall were able to arrange for my own guided tour of the huge factory with a former Hall employee. I had to work very quickly and don't know all of the details around some of the photos. If you are interested though, the excerpt from Wikipedia below re: 'Manufacture Process' may clarify some of that.
Wikipedia entry for 'Hall China', East Liverpool Ohio: "Founded in 1903, the Hall China Company began with three brick kilns, 38 potters, and Robert Hall’s dream of producing chinaware through the superior single-fire process. It was this single-fire process, which ensures a more durable, lead-free product, that helped establish Hall China as the market leader. Today, Hall China’s factory is an impressive 12 acres under one roof with 125 employees. Six computerized, fast-fire kilns use state-of-the-art technology that results in chinaware that is 32.2% stronger and uniform — piece after piece, year after year..."
Wikipedia also quotes 'The Collectors Encyclopedia of Hall China' to describe the unique 'Manufacture Process' used by Hall: "...The manufacture of Hall China begins with a mixture of quartz, feldspar and several different clays. These ingredients are mixed together with water to form a slip. The filtered slip is then pumped into presses to remove the water and leaving filter cakes. The cakes are processed through a pug to remove air, before being shaped by jiggering or jolleying to produce plates and bowls. For items such as teapots, the cakes have water added to them and the resulting slip is poured into moulds and moved through the glazing and firing processes. When completed, the pieces are decorated by hand-painting, decals or printing."
I want to thank all of the workers at Hall for sharing their workspace with me for a few moments, and special thanks to the president of the local Glass Molders and Pottery Workers Union #417, Sally Winterburn, below. Good to see that the union movement is still alive and well.