By Carl Judson
In high school, I set about teaching myself to make pottery. I had the help and encouragement of many (including my initially dubious parents).
My insistent precociousness was rewarded with patience, kindness and generosity, seasoned with considerable good-natured rolling of eyes. Clara Hatton, the spinster head of the Art Department at Colorado A&M, invited me to her home, showed me her collection, loaned me books and introduced me to Jim McKinnell, who introduced me to Betty Woodman.
My innumerable unannounced visits to Betty’s studio in Boulder were always welcomed with an indulgent smile. Betty introduced me to Harold Emrich, a ceramic engineer at Denver Brick & Pipe, where I became an instant pest.
High school chemistry class opened a whole new perspective on glazes. The advent of spring found me skipping school to scout for local glaze materials. Mr. Morehart, the chemistry teacher, soon detected my forgery of absence notes, but looked the other way, muttering something about “snow job.”
By the time high school was over, I was ready to leave the farm and set up a pottery. My parents had bought the old “Cherry Factory” north of Fort Collins and more or less ceded the large brick storage building to me. That summer after graduation, I undertook the construction of a small wood kiln.
In due course, the pottery’s production was influenced by the Early American earthenware and stoneware traditions and characterized by the use of local clays and glaze materials. Still true today.
The pottery has been blessed with the contributions of many fine people over the years. Here are some of them:
Roadside sign for the old pottery at the Cherry Mill
1965 – Carl and Jeanne are married at the old “Cherry Mill”. They build the ‘beehive’ kiln.
1966 – Daughter, Meredith, is born.
1967 – Ron Knight joins the pottery for the summer. The 2-chamber wood/salt kiln is built. Carl modifies an industrial bread mixer to run off the tractor to mix clay. Mary White teaches the pottery how to pull handles.
1968 – Jerry Hummel joins the pottery. Betty Kuhns and Ed Vizard also help. A smaller 2-chamber kiln is built. First truck-load sales trip to Santa Fe.
1969 – Dahn Haven joins the pottery. Carl builds the “dollhouse” and the clay mixing building. The pottery begins making clay for sale (Sarah Center, see 2000, becomes a customer).
1970 – George Post joins the pottery as handyman. Bluebird Manufacturing (pottery equipment) is born. More space is added for a manufacturing shop. Sue Foster joins the company.
1971 –Carl and Jeanne take a collecting trip through the Ohio Valley, returning with 89 pieces of 19th century stoneware. Carol Barry (Kansas City Art Institute) joins the pottery for the summer.
1972 – ‘Car’ kiln is built with insulating bricks made at the pottery. Carl and Jeanne take over farming of half of the family farm south of Wellington, and in the process, the pottery becomes a traditional Bluebird Pottery.
1973 – Son, Arthur, is born. Eleanor Epner joins the pottery, bringing her experience in an English pottery.
1973-74 – Feature articles about Judson Pottery published in Studio Potter Magazine.
1975-76 – Peggy Barnes, Sandy Edwards and Judy Lathrop join the pottery. Work from the pottery exhibited in a show at the Kansas City Art Institute.
1977 – Carl’s father dies. Carl and Jeanne move to Livermore and begin constructing a new pottery with the help of Steve Jones (Rainbow Restaurant). Now farming 220 acres at Wellington and commuting to the pottery at the Cherry Mill. Robin and Brigitte Baer spend the winter helping to complete the new pottery.
1978 – Daughter, Nina, born. Lawrence Meade from Jugtown Pottery, Seagrove, NC, joins the pottery, still operating at the Cherry Mill.
1979-82 – The pottery becomes dormant as Phantom Canyon Ranch project requires Carl and Jeanne’s full attention.
1982-88 – Tim Barry (Kansas City Art Institute) joins the pottery at Livermore to develop tile production and related equipment. Tim reintroduces Arthur to pottery.
1986 – Alice Hohenberg (Kansas City Art Institute) helps Tim for the summer.
1987-88 – Arthur spends a year in France with potter friends, Robin and Brigitte Baer.
1988-92 – Arthur takes pottery classes throughout high school, builds and fires an updraft wood kiln at the ranch.
1992-94 – Arthur constructs “THE CHIMNEY” and builds and fires a wood kiln.
1993 – Grandson, Sacha, is born to Meredith and Vincent.
1996-97 – Carl and Arthur set up the current pottery and build the 'downdraft' wood/oil kiln with the help of Ben Roberts.
1997-2000 – In the course of several visits, Carl and Arthur establish relationships with potters in Wayculi, Bolivia. This village of about 120 families has been making pottery since the Spanish Conquest.
2000 – Carl and Arthur build and fire the ‘groundhog’ salt kiln with the help of David Gillespie, Laura Peel and Emma Gross. Carl and Sarah Center are married. Sarah joins the pottery with 30 years of professional pottery experience and a lovely eye for decoration.
2015 – The pottery celebrates its 50th Jubilee. About 200 people show up for the lamb roast and opening of the groundhog kiln.
2018 – Sandy Edwards-Zickrick re-joins the pottery after a 40 year ‘time out.’