Ready to Serve: Paul Eshelman

Ready to Serve: Paul Eshelman

Ready to Serve: Paul Eshelman

February/March 2014 issue of American Craft magazine
Author Staff
Mediums Furniture
Tableware by Paul Eshelman

Tableware by Paul Eshelman. Photo: Mark LaFavor


For more than 30 years, Paul Eshelman has been making pottery. Since 1988, he and his wife, Laurel, have run Eshelman Pottery in Elizabeth, Illinois, a small farming community. His work is slip-cast in red stoneware using plaster molds and topped with thick, color-rich glazes.

What drives you to make your work?
I love practicing careful craftsmanship.

What do you think is unique about what you make?
In the world of clay, my work sits way over on the tight, clean end of the continuum. Because my pieces are first defined in plaster, they have forms and surfaces that speak of a hard material, shaped and finished, rather than a soft, plastic material.

How do you imagine your work being used?
In my mind’s eye, I see my pots integrated into normal daily life serving food and drink, humanizing those activities.

What is your ideal gathering around a table?
The best meals for me are the big family dinners at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Our table is filled with four generations enjoying each other and sharing food served in a variety of beautiful pots.

What pot do you find yourself using most often?
I own a broad collection of cups and mugs made by many different potters. Most recently, I have enjoyed evening tea using a newly acquired Andy Brayman cup, served from a Yixing teapot.

Do you consider yourself an artist, a potter, or both?
Art and functional craft differ in category, not quality. Art objects provide aesthetic enjoyment through contemplation, while pottery provides aesthetic enjoyment through service. As one devoted to function, I always think of myself as a potter, not an artist.

Read the rest of our ceramic tableware feature.