"We buy dirt, and sell art"
Doug ‘Potter’ Brown opened Potters Brown in Edom, Texas in 1971, but he began crafting pottery 5 years before in 1966.
If you ask Brown how he ended up in the small town of Edom, with a last-recorded population of 391, he says it all starts with his motorcycle. Brown came to East Texas from California, where he met a couple and lived on their property to help with the wife.
“After, I got on my motorcycle and started driving around, and I would come to a stop sign and go, ‘let’s go right,'” said Brown. “So I ended up at the stop sign across the street [from the present day Potters Brown location in Edom] and I looked and there was this vacant building and the man that owned the property wanted to retire.”
And as they say…the rest is history. Brown ended up purchasing the building, along with the two acres of land around it, and for the last 4 decades has called Edom home.
Brown, along with other full-time residents and artists in Edom, began the Edom Art Festival, and year after year, tourists and vendors would flock into the small city to take part in the festival. That’s when he met Beth.
“I made women’s handbags for 23 years and I was an exhibitor at the festival in 1991, and we met and fell in love,” said Beth. “So I moved here and I had my studio next door for about a year, and then decided it’s a lot more fun making clay pots than handbags. So I became a potter full-time.”
When we asked Doug and Beth what they do, Doug was quick to respond that, “they buy dirt and sell art.”
The Browns truly craft every piece of work, start to finish, in their studio.
Doug drives to Dallas and fills up his truck and trailer with clay and brings it back to his studio where he mixes four to five different types of clay with water and turns it into “big bread dough.” From there the real crafting begins.
“We either work on the Potter’s wheel or we do what’s called slab work,” said Brown. “We have a slab roller where it rolls out like a big pizza dough and then we put that over forms or we manipulate the edges.”
Beth chimed in saying this is the hand-work. Where they take wet clay, and use their hands to morph it into whatever they want to create.
Then the work is dried (into the molded shape) and fired in the kiln for the first time.
“We fire extremely hot,” said Beth. “A lot hotter than any other potter that you will find. And the reason we do that is to create a lovely surface for the glazes to melt. But also, the hotter you fire, the stronger the pot.”
After pieces have been fired for the first time, and cooled, they remove and glaze the pieces; handpainting each peace. Then the pieces are fired again in the kiln for roughly 18 hours at 2,400 degrees.
Then it cools for two days, and it’s unloaded.
“We consider ourselves to be painters and you can just eat off our art,” said Brown.
Everything that’s on the shelves at Potters Brown was made by hand by either Doug or Beth.
“We don’t use anything commercial here in the studio, either with our clay or our glazes,” said Beth. “Everything that goes into our product comes out of the Earth. There is nothing synthetic or man-made that goes into our product.”
Beth goes on to add that Doug formulates each and every glaze they use.
“These are glaze recipes because we are essentially cooking in a quite literal way,” said Beth. “These are all glaze recipes and formulas that Doug has been working on his entire life and they are exceptional.”
The Brown’s add that the glazes they use are very temperamental. They start with a base color, described as a opaque white, creamy color, then they add colorants to it, in the forms of oxides and minerals, and that’s what creates the color.
The color also changes depending on the temperature of the kiln.
“And it all depends on the temperature that you fire,” said Beth. “The reason why we do that is to create a lovely surface for the glazes to melt.”
In the picture above you can see various shades of blue glazes, but it’s actually all the same material. The color just changes based on the temperature of the kiln.
Doug and Beth create a variety of products ranging from coffee mugs to platters to bowls to butter savers and everything in between. But one thing they all have in common? They’re handcrafted with skill and love.
“The clay is the real teacher and you just have to pay attention,” said Brown. “I’ve had people who’ve come in and said, ‘You know, every morning I’ve had coffee in one of your cups for the last 20 years,’ and it makes me feel really good.”
“And we get to have coffee with [them] every morning,” added Beth. “And that is so special. That is why we do this, because of our relationship with our customers, they’re so special!”
Potters Brown is located at 8287 FM 279 in Edom, Texas.
Beth and Doug don’t have set hours for the studio, but they’re typically open every day.
Stay up to date on all things The East Texas Weekend!