One of the Oldest Potteries Left in America
Word Count 518
Where can you find hand-made, Bybee blue pottery in Kentucky you might ask. Well, the answer is at Bybee Pottery located in the rural town of Bybee, Kentucky.
The pottery has been owned and operated by the Cornelison family for five generations.
“I’ve worked at the pottery since I was 11,” said Jimmy Cornelison, son of Walter Cornelison. Jimmy currently runs the pottery following in his father’s footsteps.
“The pottery has been in my family for 202 years,” said Jimmy Cornelison. This agrees with the stories that the pottery opened in 1809. There is slight controversy around this date because records of purchase only date back to 1845.
“I liked my job, but I also enjoyed meeting people from different states and even countries,” said Brenda McMaine. Brenda worked at the pottery for 33 years as a finisher.
“The finisher is the person who adds handles, flukes, spouts and other final details after the piece is shaped,” said Brenda.
The pottery has been a major tourist attraction for the small town. People want to get a taste of history by either buying some of the famous Bybee blue colored pottery or by even taking a tour of the building and seeing the process for making pottery.
The pottery is the oldest pottery west of the Alleghenies and second in the United States.
“Yes, after a piece comes out you feel like you have participated in history,” said Brenda.
The process is very similar to the methods used two centuries ago.
The clay used by the pottery for making plates, cups, bowls, pitchers, and other various pieces is still mined three miles away from the pottery. They now use a tractor instead of shovel to mine the clay from an area next to the Kentucky River.
The clay is then grinded in the pug mill owned by the pottery just down the road. Then the clay is stored in a vault to keep it moist and fresh.
The clay is taken by a potter and shaped on a potter’s wheel. The wheels are now powered by electricity but in the past were powered by steam power. Once off the wheel a finisher adds the final details that the piece needs.
One of the final stages is adding the glaze and coloring. The colors seen on pottery such as the bybee blue are produced by certain mixtures of minerals.
After being glazed the pieces go into the kiln to finish the process. The kiln is a wooden powered stove that cooks the pieces at 2,200 degrees.
The pottery is currently frozen in production because of the economic problems faced in America. The pottery has been in its current state since 2009. This also caused the lay-off of its eight workers.
“That is a misconception. The pottery is not closed, we just aren’t producing anything at the moment,” said Cornelison.Cornelison hopes to bring the pottery back to its former glory and to make the desired bybee blue pottery available again.