Bob Brotherton was a gentle man who loved life and as a potter lived it to the fullest. Many were not able to have the privilege to know and love him because he lived and worked a quiet life on his mountaintop over Canton, NC. He enjoyed a peaceful life with his wife Mary Alice, surrounded by many animals including his beloved dogs. Talking about his kids, his pots, his dogs, and running were his top topics for sharing.
Bob worked in his small studio. It was always spotless and filled with beautiful pots in their many stages. He never concern himself with notoriety or being in the best shows and galleries, he made pots purely for the love of it, and it showed. Bob’s pots were always excellently executed and very accessible; he truly wanted his pots to be used. He was humble and believed pots were to be used and appreciated. He mostly sold his work to fellow potters, galleries, and his friends.
Bob passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2017, leaving a studio filled with beautiful unfinished pots. These pots represent 50 years of focus and exploration. All of the pots were either glazed and ready to go into their final firing, or bisque fired and waiting to be glazed.
Late into last year, I received a call from P.J. Glenn, Bob and Mary Alice’s nephew, whom I had never met. He received my name, and being a life-long friend of Bob’s, he was seeking assistance in selling Bob’s equipment, especially his large gas kiln. He happened to mention all the pots and commented, “he had no idea what to do with them”. George, my husband, and I drove to Bob’s studio at the top of a mountain to have a look around. There they were in all their splendor: Bob’s pots waiting to be fired. It was then that a collaboration between P.J. and The Village Potters Clay Center was born.
Most potters work in cycles. We have throwing cycles, assembling cycles, glaze and firing cycles. We make a lot of pots for weeks and weeks, then pots rest and dry. We transition into a final cycle by glazing and filling our kilns for firing. As I looked around Bob’s studio, it was clear he was in the glazing and firing cycle of completing this work when he left us. The pots represented at least 2-3 months of labor.
I was humbled and thrilled to take all of Bob’s unfinished pots to my studio and see them through to completion. When I fired his glazed work in my gas kiln, it was my hope they would come out looking like Bob’s pots always have. I added a liner glaze to the inside of the unglazed pots, then fired them in our Kazegama kiln where they experienced the violence of wood ash melt! All of Bob’s pots came out just beautiful and fit completely with his glazes.
We all will miss him deeply – his stories, his dry sense of humor, his gruffness, and his heart on his sleeve so big you could almost see it sitting there. I was blessed to know him, to share in his life, and finish this work. Come celebrate Bob with us and have a final opportunity to purchase from the last of his legacy of work.
The Village Potters Clay Center will host an opening reception for Bob Brotherton: Humble Pots from a Gentle Man, at our gallery space on Saturday, May 11, 2019 from 5:00-7:00PM.
The exhibit and sale of his pots will run from May 11 – July 6, 2019, and proceeds will benefit both The Village Potters Clay Center Scholarship Fund and the Brotherton Family Fund.