Ceramics Monthly: What inspires your exploration of different functional forms?

Wendy Eggerman: The first place I look for inspiration is an antique store (or even an old Sears & Roebuck catalog). I am struck by the colors and surfaces, but maybe more importantly, the objects. Each tells a story, whether that be about the years of use or simply how people used to live. Having named my pottery business Functional Heirlooms, I want my pots to feel like they have already lived a past life and will continue to tell a story with every cup of coffee or breaking of bread for many years. 

As someone who likes to bake, the bread box in particular has always intrigued me. Then I discovered the bread crock, a ceramic jar designed to keep bread fresh. I can’t remember where I first saw a bread crock, but I do remember thinking, “A ceramic bread box, heck, I could make that!”

CM: What do you see as the value of making special pieces for your own personal use?

WE: I think it’s important to make things just for yourself, because you never know where it will lead. Sometimes a stray creation leads to a new idea or technique, but in this case, it led to a memory. 

The idea for the bread crock started out as simply looking for a better way to store fresh loaves, inspired by the ways of the past, but ended up being an object that tells a story just like the antiques I admire. As I imagined my ideal bread crock, I realized it would include a wooden lid that doubled as a cutting board. However, I’m not much of a woodworker, so I had to call in reinforcements. My dad is a jack of all trades and he knew how we could make my idea into a reality. We spent an afternoon finessing a chunk of butcher block into a well-fitting lid to pair with a completed ceramic crock form. It was a wonderful way to spend a winter day. 

Since it was my first attempt, my bread crock isn’t perfect, but it’s perfect to me. In cooler weather, it’s filled with crusty loaves of bread, and it’s forever filled with the memory of working with my dad. The story this bread crock tells will always warmly remind me of this moment in time, and I think that makes it absolutely worthwhile to create something just for myself.

Photo: Lora Hlavsa.

Topics: Ceramic Artists