Tuesday, July 24, 2018


Over the weekend I was searching online for a list of Salmon Falls Stoneware makers marks. A friend had a bean pot that I wanted to identify for her, and Jeff wasn't home to take a look at it. During my search I came across a Salmon Falls Stoneware piggy bank with John's mark. John was one of the piggy bank makers at the factory in Dover, NH. As searches go, I then stumbled upon a short essay that John had published in The Sun magazine in 1983. I knew he had subscribed to The Sun, there were lots of old issues in the house. What I didn't know was that he had submitted, and had this piece published.

I AM COMING TO REALIZE I am an artist as opposed to a craftsman. I enjoy making pots that do no more than sit there and speak directly to the spirit. God, I am a lucky one, for I work with spirit every day. Some days more than others. Today, I had to work eight hours before it started, but then it was like working with clay for the first time again, finding new forms and delighting in their appearance. One day of making a group of successful “one-of-a-kinds,” or even getting just one right, will carry me through weeks of repetitious throwing. And the plates and bowls take on a newer, subtle glow.

I have found a voice. I try to let myself be open to it everywhere. When I used to play music, some of the nights, really special nights, it was beyond words. It’s a matter of putting yourself in a place where the spark can come through. You offer yourself up and sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. It is in control, not you.

I’ve tried to do the same in my relationships. If I feel that spark, I follow it. And I don’t settle for anything less than the best any more, in anything. I’m talking about quality. In music, in pots, in love. It’s all the same — I wash dishes the same way I play guitar.

The striving to reach new heights is what I love and work so hard for. Maybe I take myself too seriously, but I want to make a statement that will last longer than my life here on earth. Ego? Not entirely. Through art, man has an ability to communicate; it is an emotional language understood at the gut level if the artist has depth and command of his materials. It takes a lifetime to learn those skills — how to weld the technical to the passions of being alive. There are higher forces at work on us. I want to create the feeling that one gets from looking at the pyramids, or the stone sculptures of Easter Island — reaching higher. I have felt much pain in my life, but that has carved out a place in me that is full of love now. I have to hide it even from myself. It’s overwhelming sometimes. And I want to pass it along — it’s not worth a damn if I don’t.

John Zentner
Knoxville, Maryland

My favorite sentence is, "I wash dishes the same way I play guitar." 

And that he did.

Reprinted with permission
Read more of The Sun here: Things I Make - The Sun


  1. That is so very inspirational, at least to artists and especially potters! Thank you for sharing it here. I remember the old zen saying, "Before enlightenment, washing dishes, carrying water. After enlightenment, washing dishes, carrying water."

    1. I always referred to John as the zen cowboy. :-)

  2. What a beautiful piece to have found. He sounds like a beautiful soul.

  3. How beautiful to have found this. ❤️

  4. lovely to read this..precious


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