Pepperell potter wants to experiment with her art

posted Mar 9, 2012, 7:10 PM by Kathy Icenogle

PEPPERELL -- Potter Carol Case is retiring from retail.

Still a full time art teacher at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, Case says she wants to concentrate her pottery work more experimentally, more radically instead of making things for sale. When Groton's NOA Gallery opened in 2002 on Main Street she was among the first artisans to begin selling work there.

"I have always had a great relationship with NOA, they are always encouraging new things," Case said.

Her particular brand of pottery dances on a line between creative aesthetic and functionality. When Case creates something, she calls it a 'vessel' rather than label it for a specific function. She says people have used them for baking, displaying flowers, serving food, decorating a room and more.

Archeology informs her work, Case's earth toned pieces usually look more like artifacts from an ancient civilization or Native American tribe than something one would find on a shelf.

"I like when they look like they were dug out the ground," she says.

Unlike commercial pots, like ones would find at Pottery Barn she says, Case uses specific clays and glazes to achieve earth-tones. NOA Gallery co-founder Ian Scofidio said her work is 'one of a kind and very different from what's typically found in New England.'

"It has a southwestern flare and it's also very hard to make, the flat construction can so easily come out of the kiln defective," she said. "That's why a lot of potters don't even attempt it."

Case's pots are a bit testy, she says, they never come out looking entirely uniform and tend to collapse into themselves sometimes. During her time at the NOA, Scofidio said her work was popular despite it's radical look.

"We will miss her and her work," she said.

Part of the reason is that glazes and clays she uses are getting rarer and rarer and propane, that powers her room-sized kiln, is getting expensive. Earthworks Studio, her backyard clay lab, will continue to get used though.

"I will continue to do pottery as long as I have a place to work," she said.

Inside Earthworks there is a work bench with sample tiles of different clays, glazes and heating methods. Fossil-like prehistoric stamps of cave-drawings, seashells, seahorses and starfish for adorning her work lay about too.

Much of her work begins as hand-spun shape from the potter's wheel and then added too. Belt-like collars wrap around the lips of bowls and teapot handles become lizard tails.

"Some things tell you what they want to be after you've begun sculpting them," she said

For all the prehistoric inspiration in her work, Case says that pottery itself is ancient.

"The chemistry of it is fascinating, and we now know all about the makeup of everything and how they work together, but we still haven't changed the methods," she said. "We still use our hands, and some people still fire in holes in the ground."

Her potting career began 'on a whim' when, intending to go onto veterinary school, she took a pottery elective in high school. The school was in Newburgh, NY, Case's hometown about an hour north from New York City.

After discovering pottery, she went on to earn a B.A. in studio arts at the Newton College of the Sacred Heart in Boston and the State University of New York Potsdam.

"I studied education as a fall back, but I soon learned I do love doing it," Case said.

While living in New York, she taught art at a middle school outside of Syracuse and began displaying her work at a gallery there. After moving to Pepperell in 1979, Case continued to work on her pottery, making pieces for family and friends while working as a stylist and for a software company.

When it opened in 2003, she began selling her things at the NOA Gallery in Groton and soon thereafter began teaching ceramics at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.

"The software job wasn't for me, I needed to be working with young people again," she said.

Around this time she got her M.A. in education at Fitchburg State College. Case sais there is a strong art department at GDRHS.

"There are so many opportunities these days, we have kids working for Nike or Reebok, designing clothing and furniture, there are creative jobs in those big companies," she said.

Between teaching high schoolers and the gallery, Case said the pace was exhilarating and nerve-racking at once. Also around that time she joined the Dunstable Artisans, which has since become the Merrimack Valley Artisans.

"They were very supportive, gave me a lot of feedback on marketing and quality standards," she said. "I left in 2008 because I felt I could not give them enough time."

Case plans to remain teaching. This year she is heading up senior art projects at GDRHS. With her personal art, she is scaling back production to get more creative.

"I am looking for more time to experiment with new work and try different glazes and clay, just do it more for pleasure than anything else," Case said.

Her work will be on sale while it lasts, marked down from 25 to 50 percent at the NOA Gallery's Groton location at 157 Main Street. NOA is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, Thursday until 7 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 4 p.m. Patrons can shop online at or call the store for more information at 978-448-0990.

NOA also has a studio at 113 Main St. and at 86 Commonwealth Ave. in West Concord, and at the Fruitlands Museum at 102 Prospect Hill Road, Harvard.

Written by Luke Steere,
Published by Nashoba Publishing on   03/09/2012

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