A craft that began thousands of years ago simply as a functional way to store food and water, pottery quickly became a true art form in all of the major civilizations of the ancient world. The tradition continues to this day right here in our own community with local potter Shawn M. Grove.
Nestled in the woods on the outskirts of the Village of Lucketts is where you will find the large wood-fired kiln, workshop, and gallery of local potter Shawn Grove, just behind his centuries-old farmhouse that he shares with his wife, Rebecca, and children.
“I came out here to be a part of this community. Historically, potters settled in a town and became the local potter.”
A local high school art teacher by day, Shawn first began gravitating towards pottery during his college years. Specifically, pottery provides “a little celebration that people can interact with,” Shawn explains. He also enjoys the use of raw natural elements to create his art: Earth, water, wind and fire.
Shawn has studied the history, styles and techniques of pottery from different cultural origins, providing a heavy influence in his own works from England, Germany, Korea, and Japan. This is one of the reasons Shawn’s style of pottery is more traditional and organic in nature. No electric or gas-fired kilns are used. Instead, Shawn built a large, traditional brick, wood-fired kiln in his backyard with the help of his friend Brian Mattrow beginning back in 2002.
Shawn’s production process is done in two stages, seasonally: First is the actual “throwing” or “turning” of the pots. This is where the raw clay is sculpted on a potter’s wheel and then set aside to air dry. Different types of glazes can be added, too. Shawn usually spends the winter and summer months in this phase—turning the pottery and stock piling them for the second stage which is “firing.”
The firing process is done usually only two times a year, sometimes three, due to the large amount of time that it takes—about 36 hours! Shawn typically holds a firing in his kiln in the spring and autumn, firing all of the pieces that he has “turned” during the previous season.
A firing starts early in the morning on a Saturday and usually ends mid-afternoon on a Sunday. Shawn enlists the aid of his friends or other local potters. First, the wood-fired kiln must be pre-heated for 10 hours. The kiln, packed full with around 180 pieces of pottery, is closed off by bricks and allowed to sit for many hours with temperatures sometimes getting as high as 2,500 degrees. Finally, the pottery sits inside the kiln to cool down for about a day and a half.
Shawn invites you to visit his studio and gallery open this weekend, December 12th and 13th, located at 41718 Browns Farm Lane, Leesburg, VA 20176, or you may call for an appointment: 703-477-7021.
Shawn’s works are also displayed and available for sale locally at the Waterford Corner Store in the Village of Waterford. Says Shawn, “That’s a good fit. The money they make goes straight to the Waterford Foundation,” which helps to preserve the village, registered as a National Historic Landmark.