The Life & Thoughts of a Potter

Introduction to the Golden Hollow Pottery.

Tad Crisp began making pots in high school craft class back in 1969-70. He continued his love of clay through college where it lured him away from intended majors in biology and anthropology to fine art. In 1977 he graduated from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M of Corpus Christi, Texas) as a Bachelor of Fine Arts, with an emphasis (almost 30 semester hours) in Ceramics/Pottery. Immediately following his graduation (in December of 1977) he joined the US Navy. In the Navy, pottery just was not a possibility, so he diverted his creative attentions toward developing graphic design, illustration and calligraphy skills. There is no direct route to becoming a Navy Artist ­(Illustrator/Draftsman), but after spending 6 years in the Navy (five of them at sea), he was able to become an Illustrator/Draftsman, and served four years in that vocation. Upon receiving his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1988, he went to work in the graphic ­design field where he has worked for the last 19 years. After being away from his love of clay for 25 years he is settling into his beautiful ­Tennessee backwoods, and building a pottery studio. It has not been just like getting back on the proverbial bicycle, but, he is back in the swing of things and hopes to make pottery a major part of his ­productive life from this point forward.

The Process, Nature, and Aesthetics of Pottery

Pottery, unlike most art forms produced today, defies the urgent nature of our society. Clay requires time to form, time to dry, and must be worked at key times during this drying process. There are things that may be done to speed up some of these processes, but from start to finish the average pot takes two to three weeks from start to firing (and much longer for larger pieces). This allows numerous ­reflections on both design and purpose as the piece matures toward completion.

Stoneware and porcelain pottery is very functional. It is dishwasher safe, microwave safe (though the high iron clay bodies may heat up a bit), oven safe and in some cultures is even used on top of the stove (though this is not recommended). The purpose of art pottery is to bring truth and beauty to everyday life. Art has not always been sophisticated and ­separated from life, detached for a special appreciation. In the ­beginning, art was merely an aesthetic treatment of things used in everyday life. Art ought to have both a physical and a spiritual or ­“soulish” component. It should transcend ordinary and cause the user to experience and contemplate beauty in creation as it is used. A ­well-designed and well-made teapot, for example, is not merely a vessel for dispensing steeped beverages. Instead, while it is fully capable of ­dispensing these beverages, it is also capable of drawing the user into an aesthetic experience, and enhancing the joy of simply having tea. ­Pottery is “touchable art.” It is something that rewards the participant for making time in his/her day to spend with it. It is Tad’s hope that the Golden Hollow Pottery may contribute to the experience of beauty in your life as it is lived in our increasingly chaotic and material culture.

In this Modern Day, Why Pottery?

Pottery is as old as civilization itself. In Genesis 2:7, the Scriptures say that the Lord God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and he became a living being. So, ­according to the Scriptures, God made us out of the dust of the earth, and we have been trying make stuff out of the same stuff ever since. Clay is simply dirt. It is made up primarily of Alumina and Silica, along with a ­number of other minerals that contribute to color and density. The art of ceramics is really just making art out of the dust of the ground. There are three basic distinctions in pottery and ceramics: Clay fired at a lower temperature, remaining porous and a little more fragile is called Earthenware. Clay fired at higher temperatures and becoming solid or vitrified is called Stoneware. The third classification is ­Porcelain, which is the purest of clay and usually fired at very high temperatures. Porcelain, although used to make some of the most ­ornate and decorative pieces of pottery, is also used to make toilets, electric and electronic components and even some tools.

At Golden Hollow Pottery, stoneware and porcelain are the primary clays used. Stoneware is very nice, earthy and very hard. Not only is working with stoneware gratifying, but the hardness and look of the final ­product is very enjoyable. Porcelain is smooth, almost glassy and pure white, and the finished surface can almost seem like a shimmering liquid under the glaze.

All ceramics must be fired to change them from clay to ceramic. The temperatures range from about 1,100 degrees f. for earthenware to ­almost 2,400 degrees f. for stoneware and porcelain.

Take Your Time, It’s Worth It!

Ceramics is terribly incompatible with our modern “instant gratification” culture. Finished pottery, of course can be bought instantly from outlets and studio stores, which caters to this, however, from start to finish, it can take months. Wet clay is formed into pots and ­allowed to dry for a couple of weeks, then it is fired once in what is called a bisque firing. Once the clay has been changed from clay to ceramic, it is no longer fragile and cannot be dissolved or recycled back into the bucket and used again. At this point it is glazed and fired again. This can take a week (or however long it takes to fill the kiln). So, for instance, ­if you want to order a coffee cup, it can take at least three weeks until you see it, more than likely a month. For special date ­sensitive orders, it is a good idea to order pieces at least 6 weeks in advance and be sure to specify the target date in your order.

Just Like Christmas

Nothing in life is guaranteed. Almost everyone in our western ­culture has memories of sitting around a tree on Christmas morning and opening beautifully wrapped packages — excitingly waiting to see what is inside. At the same time that there was great exhilaration and excitement at the prospect of getting something really wonderful, there was a little anxiety that it might be a garish sweater or another tie... In similar fashion, pottery is not guaranteed. No matter how beautiful a form is, when it goes into the kiln, there is no surety that it will survive the firing. If it survives the firing, there is certainly no guarantee that the glazes and oxides that worked so well last time will also ­produce beautiful pieces this time. Each kiln load is just like that Christmas package... “Is it a beautiful ____!“ Or, “oh great, another tie!”

About Ordering

Commissioning pottery is the only true way to collaborate on the pieces which will complement your life and lifestyle (or that of the ones for whom you are buying gifts). Most of the pieces that are ­created at Golden Hollow Pottery are the expression of what the ­potter feels are the things that will edify and enhance your life. With your help, however, a near perfect match may often be made. Special ­orders are encouraged. Contact the Golden Hollow Pottery at 615-633-6372 or email us at

Do You Have Good Ideas?

There are a wide range of items which can be made from clay. There are so many, in fact, that a potter can do research for hours, not to find other potter’s styles, but just to determine what they are making and ­attempting to determine whether it will fit in our local markets and lifestyles. Pottery can be effectively used for food and drink preparation: ­mixing, baking, serving and all other aspects of dining. It is also a ­compliment to serving beverages (coffee, tea, juice, beers, wine and ­liquor). Not long ago in our history, just about anything one used in life was handmade from clay, wood, leather or metal. We have become so ­advanced in our society that we have gotten away from some of these simpler handmade forms. In this artist’s opinion, man was not created for a one-size-fits-all life. This may be efficient, but leads to a sterile and cheerless existence. As you reach out to enjoy life, it is this potter’s hope that this experience will be enhanced by the Golden Hollow Pottery.


You may contact Tad at 615-633-6372 (Hartsville). You may also place special orders at any gallery where you have seen Tad’s work displayed.