Artist Del Martin gives back to Potter's Bowl

February 16, 2012|By MARIE GILBERT |
  • Del Martin works in his pottery studio near Sharpsburg. He has had a serious interest in the craft for 40 years, and has participated in the Potter's Bowl for the past 20 years.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

In a world of ever-changing technology, Del Martin of Sharpsburg makes a living the old-fashioned way  — with his hands and imagination.

He's a potter.

Each morning, instead of confronting piles of paperwork, he faces tons of wet clay waiting to be molded into unique designs.

In a studio tucked away along a winding road that leads to the Potomac River, he is far removed from the noise and distractions of life outside of a rural setting.

Often, the only sound is the whirr of his potter's wheel.

It's a life that Martin has enjoyed for 38 years — creating feats of clay.

Martin said his business model was established around tableware, so it wasn't a surprise when in 1992, he was approached to participate in what was then a unique fundraising idea — the Potter's Bowl.

The concept was simple: Local potters were asked to create bowls for the event, which would be filled with soups made by volunteers. Proceeds would benefit the Community Free Clinic of Washington County.

Twenty years later, the fundraiser is still going strong — and Martin is still an active supporter.

This year's Potter's Bowl will be held on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378 on Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown.

Sponsored by Congregation B'nai Abraham and Trinity Lutheran Church, the interfaith project will once again benefit the free clinic — which is why Martin has participated for two decades.

"I believed then and believe now that there should be a floor in our health care system that would cover everyone," he said. "I'm proud to be a small part of this group of volunteers."

Martin said in the early years of the fundraiser, "it was 10 bowls for soup. Today, I make one large piece for their auction."

The local artisan said he became seriously interested in creating pottery in 1971-72, when he took two semesters on the potter's wheel at what was then Hagerstown Junior College.

"I believed I had the particular skill set and aptitude for what I experienced there," he said.

Martin said he and his wife had purchased six small properties along the river at Taylor's Landing and one eventually became his studio and the home of his business — Foxcross Pottery.

"My first week without a paycheck was spent building a reduction stoneware kiln," he recalled. "This 'car kiln' is still used today, 38 years later."

Martin said he decided to specialize in tableware but over the years he also has made electric lamps, oil lamps, bath sinks, large vases, urns and wall pieces.

"Developing glazes was my biggest challenge," he said.  "I started with formulas from books, etc. Adding the right amount of carbon to the fire at the right time to achieve the stoney matt finish I liked took more years."

Martin said he opted to mix his own clay to keep the prices down and to control the color and texture of the pots.

"Most important, was knowing how this work could artistically and functionally add value to the every day lives of those who used it in their home," he stressed.

It's a formula that has served him well.

He has developed a loyal following of customers throughout the years and created an artisan business "that has given our family adequate finances," he said. "And considering I've never been layed off and that work was always there in the morning, I've done well enough."

Today, Martin continues to offer the kind of items that originally made his business a success — unique stoneware pieces with rich, layered glazes.

But his selection is ever-changing, he said, and he also accepts custom orders.

If you go ...

WHAT: 2012 Potter's Bowl

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

WHERE: Elks Lodge No. 378, 11063 Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown.

COST: $50, includes soup and a bowl to take home

CONTACT: 301-733-5039.

MORE: For information about Del Martin and Foxcross Pottery is available at or by calling 301-432-6692.

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