Daniel Bellow Porcelain
“The pottery is very quiet,” insists Daniel Bellow, owner of Daniel Bellow Porcelain. And if you see his work you’re sure to agree. Its strength is not in being flashy or cute, but rather in its gravity, simplicity, and its feel. “This is manufacturing,” Bellow says, “can’t you see the clay under my fingernails?”
Bellow has been a full time potter for the past twelve years. In 2000, he came back to ceramics—his “first love and passion”—after a 14-year detour into print journalism. When asked how he has been able to make his pottery business work in a world that greatly favors cheap imports, he jokes that he considers it a miracle. But then he will tell you that to make a living as a potter you have two options, you either need to have a nice teaching job or you need to sell pots.
What he does is sell pots. For three years now, Bellow has been selling mugs and kitchenware to the hip nation-wide retailer Anthropologie. But he also has relationships with many local businesses. He sells at seasonal markets and at Sheffield Pottery, the Red Lion Inn, Lauren Clark Fine Art, Local in Lenox, Mass MoCa’s design store, and Classic Country in East Chatham. And the two main inputs for his business—clay and gas to fire the kiln—he purchases from Sheffield Pottery and Stockbridge Gas Co.
Bellow describes what he does as the most elemental form of work, “You make things with your hands; you put them in front of people; they buy it; and you can pay your mortgage.” His enthusiasm for the physical, the tactile, and the tangible leads naturally to an affinity for BerkShares, which he calls “just another form of cash money.” It’s especially gratifying when customers find out they can pay him with BerkShares and they say “oh good, now I don’t have to use my credit card!”
Though he admits it can be difficult for small-scale manufacturers to survive, he sees his business and BerkShares as a part of a larger movement. “I like to think that I’m on the leading edge of a major trend in our society, which is a return to things that are produced by people you know. I think that it’s an anomaly that everything we consume is made in China. It’s a freak economic distortion brought on by the availability of cheap fossil fuel. Once there is no more cheap fossil fuel, local industry will revive. People will need things here and they’ll have to be made here because the transportation costs will be enormous.” With this in mind, he envisions opportunities to expand production and take on more apprentices, and even move into a larger studio space.
With the introduction of a newly developed line of pottery and the holiday season coming up, Bellow’s studio has been busy, churning out 1000 pieces last month alone. Each one is handmade by either Bellow or his apprentice and as Bellow likes to boast, “each piece is different.” He says he’s aiming for the Japanese ideal of “looking perfect even though it’s imperfect.”
Look for Daniel Bellow’s pottery at Crispina Ffrench’s annual holiday show, and keep your ears open to hear about his holiday open studio. “Other plans are still secret,” he says, so “stay tuned.”
Daniel Bellow Porcelain
12 Benton Avenue, Great Barrington, MA
(413) 429 7111