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Dover, New Hampshire Embraces The Craftsmanship Of Salmon Falls Stoneware

By Paul Rowe

Located at the historic Engine House on Oak Street in downtown Dover, New Hampshire, Salmon Falls Stoneware has a fascinating history. Former art director Helen Berg, a local York, Maine resident, came to decorate 33 years ago and the first wholesale customer who saw her artwork said, "We will buy all you can make." In the next year Salmon Falls Stoneware grew to 42 people and has been growing ever since.

As a senior in high school in 1972, Andy Cochran had the unique opportunity to study with League of New Hampshire Craftsmen Jane Kaufmann and Wayland Bunnell. While Kaufmann shared her contagious enthusiasm for creativity with Cochran, Bunnell taught him to center and spin a well-formed pot. Over time, Cochran embraced the old time American tradition of stoneware: salt-glaze pottery. This idea came to him from his mom, Ann, who collected old Pennsylvania Dutch salt-glazed crocks.

Salt-glaze pottery often has a clear, shiny finish made by a layer of salt that coats the surface during the last phase of the firing process. Originating in the vicinity of Cologne, Germany during the 12th century, history records that the Brothers Elers, of German origin, introduced the salt-glaze method to England around 1590.

Since its humble origins in The Middle Ages, salt-glaze pottery spread to the American colonies, eventually becoming the standard method employed by early potters to make utilitarian stoneware.

While studying at the University of New Hampshire, Cochran was introduced to the art of salt-glaze pottery for the first time. Studying with Clint Thornton and mixing clay with Jun Kaenko on a regular basis, Cochran learned about wood-fired kilns and salt-glazed pottery from Dave McAllister and went on to build a six chamber climbing wood-fired kiln under his guidance at Franklin Pierce College.

"Salmon Falls Stoneware was started back in 1983 in the old Boston and Maine Engine House in Dover, New Hampshire, and is still there today," Cochran said. "The craftsmen still enjoy making pieces by hand, and you are welcome to stop by to visit and tour the factory to see how it is made."

Traditionally, salt-glaze pottery has been cobalt blue, but over the years Cochran has introduced yellow, red, orange, and green at the request of his customers. Many interesting patterns adorn the shelves of pottery at Salmon Falls, including Dragon Fly, Elderberry, and Pennsylvania patterns.

"The thing I enjoy most about my job is that I get to do something that I love every day and enjoy meeting all the interesting people who come to visit the pottery from all over the country," Cochran said.

The skilled craftsmen at Salmon Falls Stoneware have perfected the rich, longstanding American tradition of salt-glaze pottery, making functional pieces that New Hampshire locals love to bake with or serve from.

"Our dinnerware is durable enough to use every day, or you could just put them out for display," Cochran said. "The designs we paint are perfect for a traditional style of design, or one of the newer patterns will fit in with a more modern design: there is something for each person's taste."

Thanks to Salmon Falls Stoneware, the storied legacy of New England craftsmanship continues to evolve and thrive.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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