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Last updated on Dec 16, 2017

Happy Holidays .....and all the best in the new year !

Ellen Shankin

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Ellen Shankin

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Every day I work at the wheel. Over and over again I focus my attention on the unruly clay and bring my mind and body together in an intention to center it and create forms filled with breath and energy. For more than 40 years I have found myself drawn to this effort, trying to make pots that possess strength and clarity. Throughout that time I have been able to wander along a path that regularly courses between inspiration and familiarity, passion and comfort.
Day in and day out, I make forms that please me, that honor the obsessions that have always driven my inquiries:
Line: how it moves around a piece, out of the rim and back into the body. 
Balance: how pots feel in the hand when lifted or poured. 
Tension: how clay moves in ways that speak of a vitality pushing at the seams.
Architecture, the organic structure of nature around me, particular feelings about color and light, and my sense of the relationship between form and use, play heavily in the instincts and decisions that go into making these pieces.
I am keenly aware that along with these pots I am creating the quality of my time. I am crafting a daily existence filled with meaning and reward. Along with pitchers and covered jars, I am constructing the very manner in which time passes. Hours go by following threads of interest, spending time with color, texture, volume and scale and watching the interaction of those elements unfold over and over again in an evolution of my work.
These feelings, which underpin my studio life, value the journey as well as the destination. This seems to be almost an anachronism today. But there it is. A truth I have lived and loved.


I learned to make pottery at the age of 13 and fell in love with clay. Four years later I studied with Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, a magnificent Australian potter, and through her found meaning and a grounded purpose in what she showed me of a potter’s life. She is surely the reason I actually became a potter. I began to pursue a host of ceramic experiences that culminated, many years later, with my going back to school. In 1976 I received a B.F.A. with honors from the N.Y. State School of Ceramics at Alfred. I then moved to the mountains of S.W. Virginia and have lived there, making pots, ever since.

A number of wonderful opportunities presented themselves over the years. I received a 1990 National Endowment Visual Arts Fellowship Grant, and a 2001 Virginia Museum Grant, which allowed me to travel, expand my studio, and make it possible for people to actually get down our long rural driveway to see my work.
I have exhibited my pottery nationally and have pieces in the collections of numerous Museums, including the International Museum of Ceramics at Alfred, The Mint Museum, The Crocker Museum, and The San Angelo Museum of Art. My work has appeared in many periodicals and books of Ceramic Art.

Living in a community of talented craftsmen, I became a founding member of “16 Hands” a regional craft tour that has brought fine handmade objects to the attention of the surrounding area. I have also served 6 years on the board of directors of “Round the Mountain: Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Network” trying to affect whatever positive changes I can for the larger craft community in my state. Since 1992 I have pursued a growing interest in teaching workshops and have been a guest lecturer and instructor in more than 50 universities, art centers, and craft schools in the United States and Italy, Turkey and South America.

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Last updated on Dec 12, 2016
Frequently asked questions
Can these pots go in the mirowave, oven, and dishwasher?

Yes. With proper care.
All pots can take the heat of a normal oven but they need to be protected from heat shock. Place pieces in a cold oven and turn on. Remove to a draft free dry surface.

In the microwave: Heating up leftovers works just fine. And cooking foods also works. But do not place frozen items on ceramic plates as the quick change in temperature of the food as it cooks in the middle of the cold plate can crack it.

My pots love the dishwasher.

Are these pots safe for food?

Absolutely. No lead is used.

Are the butter dishes meant only for round butter?

No. A stick of butter cut in half and both halves placed side by side fill the space beautifully.

What is the material in the night lights?

The night lights are made of stoneware clay with Mica covering the windows allowing for a heat resistant amber glow from the 4 watt bulb inside.

Why does the spout on the oil bottle come apart when I try to take it off?

You need to grab the rubber collar and not the metal spout to remove it. The pourer is meant to come apart so you can clean it. I soak the metal part in boiling water and place the rubber part in the dishwasher every few months.

How should I care for teapots?

Fill with hot tap water as you wait for the kettle to boil. Empty the hot water out. Place tea leaves in. SLOWLY fill with the boiling water.

Shipping costs seem high...why is that?

It has proven difficult to get accurate estimates for shipping. They are almost always higher than costs...especially when west of the Mississippi. The discrepancy is exaggerated when buying more than 1 piece. All over-charges for shipping will be instantly refunded as soon as the actual box is packed and weighed.