Dishing on Pottery in Louisville

Enjoy perusing the patterns and styles of these two Bluegrass favorites.
Wanda McKinney

Platters and saucers and large mugs, all swirly. Big bowls and julep cups and punch bowls, all girlie. Shelves of pottery, waiting in the wings. These are a few of my favorite things.

For those who might think a lyrical tribute to dishes in Louisville, Kentucky, is a bit much, the choices really are spectacular. Two venerable businesses have long made names for themselves by creating beautiful stoneware. Shop these fun spots, where you can tour the premises and buy some great pieces that truly represent the best of Kentucky. You might find yourself humming a tune as well.

Louisville Stoneware
Begin your wanderings in the retail showroom, where the company’s signature dishware is displayed in a variety of patterns. Pear is one of the oldest patterns, created 70 years ago when the company mostly made crockery pickling jars, butter churns, and whiskey jars. Bachelor Button remains a favorite, with each blue flower petal painted by hand.

In fact, everything is done by hand here, as you will discover when you join a tour of the artists’ stations. A guide escorts you through displays of fragile dishes, birdhouses, and music boxes and into the manufacturing area. Up to 20 people handle each separate piece before it is hand painted at the end of the process. The pottery then experiences its trial by fire as it is placed in a 2,350° kiln.

Take a peek at the paint-your-own area, where you can hand decorate a mug or pitcher, and then pick it up after its firing. Favorite Pieces To Buy: Browse the Derby-themed items. You can scoop up a julep cup or a vase that looks like a jockey’s boot. Other must-haves include a music box in the shape of--and playing--“My Old Kentucky Home.” And the best news of all? It’s all oven-, microwave-, freezer-, and dishwasher-safe. 731 Brent Street; (502) 582-1900 or www.louisvillestoneware.com.

Hadley Pottery
Mary Alice Hadley began crafting her pottery in Louisville in the 1940s. Explore that same factory today as it produces around 150,000 pieces a year.

When you walk in, take in the tall shelves filled with blue-and-white stoneware in every form. There are knobs for cabinet doors, a stoneware lighthouse, candleholders, and napkin rings along with the usual dinner plates, mugs, and saucers. Though the original artist is gone, each piece of Hadley Pottery still boasts the M.A. Hadley signature on the bottom.

Favorite Pieces To Buy:
Don’t pass up the old-fashioned pitchers. Pick up one for $30. Other wonderful pieces include hand lotion bottles, casserole dishes, and the new line of garden and patio items. The salt and pepper shakers are lots of fun as well. 1570 Story Avenue; (502) 584-2171 or www.hadleypottery.com.

"Dishing on Pottery" is from the July 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.