Pine Mills Pottery studio and gallery
Many things change and some stay the same. When Bob St. John wrote the article below for The Dallas Morning News in 1994 Daphne and I were 40 years old.....we are now in our 50's. That has changed! What has not changed is our commitment to making the "best pottery in the world" and our commitment to making every piece with our own hands, "Handmade by Human Beings". Below find the article from 1994 that still gives a pretty good overview of our history and philosophy. I think you will enjoy the read.
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Artists Shape Life of Beauty in Rural Setting by Bob St. John
Dallas Morning News, Saturday, April 23rd 1994
The other afternoon Gary and Daphne Hatcher were in their pottery studio and workshop, near the 71-year-old frame house where they live with their son, Gabriel, 14, in hilly, wooded northeast Texas. The former Dallasites had not lost but rather found themselves in what they sometimes refer to as “the middle of nowhere”.
Daphne mentioned that they really don’t advertise about their business, Pine Mills Pottery, but rather get customers through word of mouth. Gary pointed out that others get lost in the area and just happen by.
The Hatchers create everything they sell from scratch, the dinnerware, sculpture, serving pieces, vases, platters, everything. They would not have it any other way. Nor would their customers, most of whom have weekend lake houses in the area or make the 110-mile day trip from Dallas to the hamlet of Pine Mills, located almost equidistant from Mineola, Quitman and Winnsboro.
Gary, 40, and Daphne, 40 next month, traveled much farther to get there. They’d known each other at Dallas' Bryan Adams High, married while they were art majors at North Texas and, after graduation in 1976, taken off for England, France and the small Greek Cyclades Island of Siphnos to hone their skills.
Love at First Sight
“I was a philosophy and psychology major at North Texas but wasn't really satisfied”, said Gary. “Once I went to check out a ceramics class with a friend taking the course. I was hooked immediately. It’s something I love, which challenges your skills, artistically and intellectually.”
Daphne had concentrated on weaving and silversmithing in school. But she converted to pottery after she went with Gary to England, where he was accepted as an apprentice to master potter Michael Leach and, later, his even more famous brother, David. Eventually, she also had a chance to work under the masters and became hooked on the art.
“In Europe, many skills of the craft have been passed down from masters to apprentices for hundreds of years,” explained Gary. “We just felt it was more beneficial to study there than in this country.”
They left Devon, a small town in England, spent time in a workshop in France and then went to Siphnos, noted for its pottery. They had very little money and lived in a tent on the beach. But they learned how to make pottery in the most primitive of ways.
“The European experience was an enormous shock for a couple of middle-class, consumer oriented Americans,” said Gary. “We lived a very Spartan existence.”
“When we landed at D/FW, we only had enough money to buy one Coke, said Daphne. “We split it.” But they had a wealth of dreams to own their own shop, to create pottery “made by human beings,” as they describe it.
A Struggle to Escape
Daphne’s parents, Hazel and Paul Roehr, gave them the chance. They invited the Hatchers to live rent-free with them. Gary worked two jobs and Daphne one and they were able to save money and find their haven in the old northeast Texas house.
They wanted not only to get away from city life but also to be near a forested area to get wood for their kiln. Actually, they were looking at another place when they passed the old house, which had been built in 1923 by the Pine Mills schoolmaster, on a 2 ½ acre tract. It had no plumbing, no wiring and no heat and was in terrible need of repair.
But in 1979, they packed up their belongings and 6-month-old Gabriel and moved in. Fortunately, Gary had carpentry skills, and they renovated the house themselves.
For a while, they hired people to help make the pottery, but soon their artistic nature overcame monetary rewards. “We started to get away from what we loved. We knew we had to create every item ourselves.”
“We were committed to making some of the best pottery in the world with our own hands,” said Gary. “There was no way to speed up the work. It just takes a lot of time, but it’s worth every minute.”
So Daphne, Gary and Gabriel are people in place. Even when they first saw the old house they felt, for some reason, they were supposed to be there. Perhaps it was the whisper from the past. In 1985 when excavation was being done for a pond on their property, they discovered ruins of pottery and a kiln from the Civil War period.