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Redware Pottery
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Tom Wintczak

“This is folk art, which is perfect for me. It’s my hands on the earth, making something you can use that is also historically accurate and pretty.”

Fifteen years ago, Tom Wintczak’s interest in antique pottery compelled him to take a pottery class at University of Southern Indiana that changed his life.

“Once I touched the clay, I knew I had to do this,” Tom says.

Tom works in a style of pottery that dates back to Colonial American known as redware. Redware takes its name from the distinctive color created by amount of iron in the clay that emerges during firing. In the 18th and 19th century, German immigrants made redware for everyday use because the riverbed clay was easy to find.

Instead of leaving it in raw color with clear glaze, Tom lets his redware pitchers, pie plates, jugs and platters dry overnight before adding another layer of lighter color clay. He then uses either sgraffito or slip-trailing in the second layer to make his designs.

Tom’s designs are inspired by the nature surrounding his 1850s log studio, the history of nearby New Harmony and his research into German folk symbolism. He also incorporates personal touches into the traditional designs for commissioned pieces.

“I will incorporate the prayer from family dinner as an etching on a platter or put personal details inside the traditional tulip leaves on a jug,” Tom says. “The things you see in museums today were these kinds of family heirlooms at one time.”

Tom recently retired from Hertz Car Rentals after working 23 years to focus on his work. “As an artisan, you love making things. In order to make more things, you have to sell things. Sure it’s a businesses but it’s because you want to make more!”