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Pottery expert shares history behind local roots to the craft

July 21, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Dr. H. Eugene Comstock, a leading expert on pottery of the Shenandoah Valley, spoke about Hagerstown's roots in the craft on Sunday to about 40 people gathered at the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.

The lecture stemmed from the exhibition, "Pottery from the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys," drawn from the private collection of Dr. George and Connie Manger, which has been on display since May in the museum's Fulton Gallery.

The nearly 130-piece debut display heralds work by late 18th- and early 19th-century regional potters from Chambersburg, Pa., to Strasburg, Va.

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The Mangers, who have been collecting pottery for about 20 years, said they are drawn to the iridescence of the glazes and to the craft itself.

Comstock clicked through slides depicting pottery made by early regional potters, ranging from works by Hagerstown potter Peter Bell and his three sons, John, Samuel and Solomon, to early valley potters Jacob Eberly and Anthony Bacher.

He said many potters got their start in Hagerstown and eventually moved through the Shenandoah Valley as competition increased. At that time, potters became very wealthy but their profits waned as more craftsmen emerged onto the scene. Now Shenandoah pottery, one of the largest traditions in the United States, is extremely expensive, he said.

He showed slides of works ranging from elaborate coin banks and glazed vases to rough dogs and boiled-egg holders. Many of the pieces were glazed in hues of gold, green and rust and sometimes were sprayed for the photographs with a solution that kept the glaze's glare from distorting the image.

"Pottery from the Shenandoah and Cumberland Valleys" will run through Sept. 14.

The exhibit is being held in conjunction with one at the Washington County Historical Society through Aug. 30 titled "The Bell Family: Three Generations of Shenandoah Valley Potters."

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