October, 2011 – Fairhope, Alabama – Clay City and the Tom Jones Pottery

Posted on November 18, 2011

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Clay City has its roots deep in the Alabama soil.

Not in just any old dirt, mind you, but in a vein of pottery-grade clay that extends from Mobile Bay to Pensacola, Florida.

While Clay City certainly isn’t a city now, and probably never was one, that doesn’t stop it from being a well-known destination for those who love and appreciate the art of fine pottery.

Clay City is the home of Tom Jones Pottery, the most recent clay-based business located in this little settlement.

The first pottery works was established here on the banks of the Fish River in 1850.  After being flooded out one time too many (plus the growing popularity of tin and glass food containers), the pottery closed around 1900.

In 1940, a new business was established farther back from the river, but still close enough to receive coal shipments brought up river on barges to feed their beehive kiln.  That kiln, a work of art in it’s own right, still stands today.

This pottery specialized in bricks, drainage tile, flower pots and other utilitarian products.  Many homes, farm buildings and businesses in the area were constructed of these unique bricks, which can be easily spotted today.  Clay City bricks were larger than a standard brick, but smaller than a concrete block, and a unique orangey-red color.

But back to Tom Jones.  A graduate of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education in Fairhope, he studied under professional potters while still in high school.  He’s just one of the many “big name” artists to call Fairhope home.

His work is both beautiful and utilitarian.  Just walk into McSharrie’s Irish Pub and look at all the beer mugs hanging above the bar.  For $25 you get a authentic TJ mug with your name on it, and really nothing else – no special draft deals, no nothin’.

But no matter – you own a piece of personalized fine art from a master potter that just happens to be the perfect container for the best cold draft in town.

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Posted in: Travel - Alabama