The founders of Classic Clay are building their business from the ground up - literally.
Using clay from the hills of his Hart County home, Earl Wiefek of Munfordville, Ky., has been making reproductions of 18th- and 19th-century bottles, vases and pitchers for about six years.He has sold his wares at county fairs and craft exhibits, but with his new partner, Barrett Barnes of Bowling Green, he hopes to expand the business.
"I think the trick to this business is that no one else is doing it," Barnes says.
"Everybody does ceramics. . . . We want to do this," Wiefek says.
They only use kaolin clay. The clay looks like dirt when they dig it from the ground, but after they mix it with water and screen it twice, it is almost white.
They use a wood-burning kiln to fire the pottery with a salt glaze, just as it was done in the 19th century.
Fool's gold, or iron pyrite, which is also found on Wiefek's wooded property, serves as dye for the pottery.
Although they use old methods, Wiefek has modified the process so pieces can be completed more quickly and efficiently. The firing process used to take about 20 hours, but with the kiln Wiefek designed, it only takes about five.
He says the kiln burns about a truckload of wood in those five hours and reaches temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Everybody tells me that's impossible to do, but I'm doing it," Wiefek says.
He is currently redesigning his kiln so it will hold more than 100 pieces at a time.
The pieces are formed in molds designed by Wiefek. After they are molded, Barnes does the final touch-ups on a potter's wheel.
Barnes says they have much work to do before they can market the pottery on a large scale, but whatever hardships this new business faces, it will not lack resources.
"The material is free. It's up there in the hill to be taken," Wiefek says. "That's a lot of clay."