Founded in 1867 on the Big Run River, half way between Punxsutawney and DuBois, The Big Run Milling Company was a fixture in Western Pennsylvania for nearly 150 years. In that time three generations of my ancestors owned and operated the mill. Hard work and generosity were the two values that came through in every story I was ever told about the mill and the generations that came before me.
The Big Run Milling Company is pictured below in the 1890s with a lineup of local farmers waiting to purchase their weekly flour, grist, and feed from the mill.
The millstone is the most integral piece of equipment in a grist mill. Two large circular carved granite stones that when stacked and turned would grind grain into flour. Patterns were cut into the upper millstone which would allow grain to be dispersed while the stone turned. There is a simple beauty to the pattern of the millstone, a design born purely out of function.
When thinking about how I wanted to present my work, the millstone was a simple choice. It is a small way for me to honor my ancestors, without whom I would not have the privilege of being able to make pottery. The simple beauty of the millstone also helps direct me when I think about the forms I want to create, making sure that form follows function. When I leave the studio after a long day and find myself covered in clay I am reminded of my ancestors leaving the mill after a long day covered in flour.