WJBF EXTRA: Dave The Potter's Work Continues To Touch Lives - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

WJBF EXTRA: Dave The Potter's Work Continues To Touch Lives

By Dee Griffin

Now brown from the winter's frost...in the late 1800's, this land was a flourishing center of creation that molded Edgefield, South Carolina into the "Pottery Capitol of the Country". Once known as "Pottersville", this area was the workplace of a man shackled by slavery...but who found freedom in his craft.

"It was a difficult thing to imagine that my family owned slaves, but I realized that...that gave me a personal link to Dave that I wouldn't have had otherwise," says author Leonard Todd, whose great, great grandfather and his brother owned the potter named "Dave".

Not much is known about Dave's life...but his work speaks for itself...on huge pots with little messages.

"He not only wrote on his jars, he signed them and said, 'I'm the one who know how to read here. I'm the one who made these jars.'," Todd says.

Dave was taught how to read and write by his owner, Harvey Drake, which was rare for slaves in the 1800's.

'Harvey was a very religious man and religious people at that time felt that the only way you could find salvation was through reading the word of God," Todd says.

What started out as a way to gain salvation.. resulted in a "stamp" of sorts on thousands of pieces of pottery...like one that is dated April 6, 1863 and simply signed "Dave".

"We have pots that have sixteen marks for sixteen gallons. We have pots that have a poem on it that says 'this noble pot will hold twenty, fill it full of silver, and you'll have plenty," says Justin Guy, a potter, who is reciting one of the poems found on a pot made my Dave. His fascination with Dave's work helped shape his own passion for pottery. "He was bold. He was what everybody wants to be," he says.

Although much of Dave's life is a mystery...his craftsmanship continues to spin a lot of interest. "Where the shoulder is produced and how the handles are put on...Dave was obviously allowed a lot of liberties to write on his pots, but he was allowed a lot of liberty to make pots because he did it so well," Guy says.

Potter Gary Dexter has found a way to emulate Dave's creations by building kilns much like the ones used by Dave. "This is where you build the fire and the heat goes all the way across all the pots and comes out the chimney back there," he says.

This kiln can produce a fraction of what Dave the potter created. However...it represents a craft that once sparked little money, but has caused a firestorm among art collectors.

"Pots that sold for a nickel a gallon are now selling for $200,000 for the pot," Dexter says.

Leonard Todd is shining a light on Dave's rich history that has been dimmed by his poor past. He has written a book called "Carolina Clay" that discusses the little information, known facts about Dave's life...facts that have created a footprint for a man who disappeared without a trace, but left a lasting impression.

"He left a huge mark on the world, he left a huge mark on me," Todd says.

It all started on this once robust land worked by a man who only lived about 70 years... but continues to spin his way into history and hearts for a lifetime.

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