Museum Gallery: September 5-October 10, 2019
Miller’s Pottery, located in Brent (Bibb County), Alabama, is one of the few remaining traditional potteries in the United States. The pots themselves are made from the Alabama clay of Perry County, and the Miller family’s 150-year history of pottery making incorporates traditions brought from Europe and cultivated in the American South. In recent years, the Millers have added a national clientele of folk art collectors to their long-standing market of local residents and reginal hardware stores.
In approximately 1870, Abraham Miller, a former Union soldier from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, came to work for the LaCoste family, married LaCoste’s daughter Frances, and learned the pottery trade. Miller soon moved his new family to Perry County in central Alabama, to work in the potteries near Sprott. He later founded his own pottery, where Miller and his sons produced glazed stoneware jugs, churns, and other utilitarian items needed by his rural customers. In the early twentieth century, Abrahams’ son William took charge of the business, aided by his sons, Hendon and Norman. They became part of a vibrant pottery-making community that also included potteries run by the Ham, Hughey, and Smith families. In the early 1930s, Hendon and Norman took charge of the family pottery and worked in partnership until about 1957, when they closed up shop to start individual businesses. In 1964, Hendon Miller moved to the town of Brent and opened a shop on Highway 5. He chose the site for its nearby natural gas line and fitted his shop with a gas-fired kiln, thus eliminating the need to fire with wood. Hendon Miller specialized in terracotta planters and other garden ornaments but also continued to produce a few glazed pieces. Older cousins Kenneth Miller and Sherman Hughey helped out at the pottery as well.
Norman opened the Norman Miller Pottery in Sprott, where he produced table wares, utilitarian forms such as churns, and flower pots. He closed his shop in the late 1970s. Hendon Miller died in 1983, and his son Eric took charge of the Highway 5 shop, which he continues to run today. He and his son Steve still collect clay from the same Perry County site that his forefathers visited. The Millers, and their partner, cousin Allen Ham, have re-introduced glazed stoneware to the shop's repertoire. The family's notoriety and the timeless utility of the pots continue to attract customers and collectors.
Bio courtesy of Encyclopedia of Alabama