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salt pigs - my experience

updated fri 1 dec 06


Ellen Currans on thu 30 nov 06

Salt pigs seem to be one of those anachronistic cute ideas that are
popping up now for gourmet kitchens. I like old pots for specific uses
and often wondered if they would be something I could make and my
customers would want to buy. I've noticed very nice ones at the
speciality kitchen stores in the last few years by Emile Henry for
around $25 and $35 dollars.

Last year a good friend asked if I would make one for her as a gift
for her husband who loves to barbecue and wanted a salt pig so he could
just put his hand in and sprinkle the salt freely over a whole rack of
chickens or ribs when he barbecues for large crowds. The Emile Henry
pigs were not large enough (and, she wanted one that matched her
kitchen. Being a woman, and just a potter, I understood that. She has a
lot of my pottery sitting around and why not have it her way.) When I
actually sat down to throw about 5 for samples, I asked how large it
needed to be. She measured his hand and said 7 1/2 inches across the
opening! I said "that is going to look like a fire hydrant sitting on
your counter if it is in proportion" and she said, "So be it". None of
the first five were large enough so I made another five in September. I
finally made one large enough, which they are very happy with, and have
named the "Salt Hog".

I put the extras in my showroom and hardly anyone knew what they were.
I put hang tags on them and put them in a show in October and sold none
of them. Even with hang tags most people didn't know what you would do
with them. They were a good conversation piece but no buyers. This is a
very good show for me and I sell a lot of bowls, trays, mugs, serving
pieces of all sorts to long time
customers, so this was a pretty good test for salt pigs.

My conclusion was that they are a lot of work (throw a closed
cylinder, throw a matching flanged opening, cut opening, attach flange
and blend it in, throw a knob on top) for the price you might want to
have for them, and few people will want to pay. If you are a beginning
thrower you may find them hard to put together so they look as good as
Emile Henry's. In the same time you spend making them, you could make a
number of other items that will sell better. Just my opinion.

However, I think you should try everything at least a few times to see
how it works for you. As a functional potter, making pots for our
living, full-time for 28 years, and learning how to do it for l6 years
before that, I have tried just about every kind of pot you can make out
of clay. I love being able to offer variety and I keep myself
interested in the whole process by constantly trying new forms or
making pots for new uses. Some drop by the wayside and others become
staples of my line until either I or my customers grow weary of them. I
am not a production potter, but I do make work in series, because it is
more efficient and better work done that way. I love the rythmn of
bowls or mugs lining up on the ware boards while my head is somewhere
else. I love surprising my customers with new pots, and watching them
slowly move along with me from one stage in my pottery life to the

Ellen Currans
Dundee, Oregon

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