News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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June 10, 2012

Clay City Pottery Festival finding success on 25th anniversary

CLAY CITY — Denise West held a stoneware crock and bowl as she eyed other pottery Saturday inside a building of the Clay City Pottery Stoneware LLC during the 25th anniversary of the Clay City Lions Club Pottery Festival.

“I am trying to decide what I will do with them, but they struck my eye,” said West of Terre Haute. “This is the first time I have been to this. It is something to do and get out of town.”

Nearby, J. Blaine Akers, a Clay County judge, purchased a miniature stoneware bird bath and some salsa plates. “This is our annual visit,” Akers said. “The best thing was the tenderloin at the Lions Club,” he joked shortly after lunch time, part of the festival’s activities at Goshen Park in Clay City.

Doris Howard of Sullivan simply enjoyed looking at the pottery.

“I enjoy all the different things, like the banks, the candy dishes and the salters. You’ve got to like pottery,” said Howard, who owns several pieces of pottery. “This makes a good afternoon out with friends.”

The Griffith family first started making pottery in Clay City in 1885. Justin Lewicki is the sixth generation owner of the pottery business. He took ownership of the company two years ago from his grandmother, Cheryl (Griffith) Wellman, renaming it the Clay City Pottery Stoneware LLC.

The company has a large stock pile of gray clay in front of its building at 510 E. 14th St. in Clay City and is one of the few family production potteries in the state.

“We take the clay in and wash it and process it all ourselves. We filter all the rocks out, turn it into a liquid and then turn it back into a solid,” Lewicki said.

“We use molds, which spin on a wheel, but it is all done by hand,” he said of products such as bowls, crocks and bird baths. The business produces about 1,200 pieces of stoneware pottery a month, which includes about 800 bowls.

The company’s website is www.claycitypottery.com.

Lewicki said Saturday’s sunny weather helped attract many visitors.

“The festival has died off the last few years and now the town is starting to work together more and is trying to build it back up,” Lewicki said.

Clay City Pottery is at the opposite end of the town from Goshorn Park, which is close to First Street off Indiana 59. The park on Saturday was the site of the fourth annual Clay City Lions Club car show. Trophies were stoneware mugs with the best of show trophy being a stoneware crock.

Steve Weidner of Freedom sat next to his restored 1966 Mustang, painted chrome yellow, a color found on the 1999 Mustang, he said. His car was among about 52 competing in the show.

“My son (Kyle) and I restored this one and he restored a 1965 Fastback. We did it at the same time to work together,” Weidner said. “I got this in Owensboro, Ky., and had to put in new quarter panels and floor boards. It took about three years to restore. It has the original 289-cubic inch engine,” one that Weidner added a lot of chrome to in order to make a show piece.

Jackie Crabb of Clay City worked at a Lions Club site in the park, where Akers ate tenderloin.

“This is the best year we have had in years,” Crabb said. “Last year we cooked the same amount of chicken we did this year, which is about 300 half chickens, and we were begging people at 3 o’clock in the afternoon to buy some because we had so many. This year we sold out about 1:30 p.m.,” Crabb said.

Crabb said she hopes today, the final day of the festival, will bring another large crowd.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or howard.greninger@

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