FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q. What is the Guy Wolff Guild of Horticultural Craftsmen?
A. Guy Wolff has been making pots by himself in his own little studio outside Litchfield, CT for more than 30 years. When the demand for his traditional garden pots became more than he could possibly fill,he looked for ways to train other traditional potters to make his historically inspired garden pottery.
Some people are surpised to see a 'Made in Honduras' label on the bottom of the Guy Wolff pots with Antiqued Finishes. Guy and Peter went to Honduras in 1999 to train a workshop of traditional potters on the garden pottery forms that Guy has helped preserve.
The shop is built around a 'Fair Trade' model, where workers are paid well and have good working conditions. The workshop is associated with both Aid to Artisans and Potters for Peace, which work in solidarity with artisans in developing countries to help improve the quality of their lives through better marketing and solutions to technical problems.
Since 1999, the Guy Wolff Guild has grown to include potters in Portugal, Mexico, China and Vietnam. In each location, Guy has personally worked with the potters to train them on his techniques, and to make sure that the workshop can make Guy Wolff pots up to the standards required. Guy looks to the strengths of the workshop, and the traditions of the culture to see what materials, techniques and shapes would best suit the capabilities of the artisans before deciding what pots to make there.
Q. How should the pottery be cared for over the winter?
A. To avoid breakage due to frost or ice, it is best to bring pots inside before the weather drops below 25 degrees Fahrenheit. If the pots must be left outside, it is best to turn them upside down so that they do not collect water, which will expand when it freezes, breaking the pot.
Q. The paint on some of my older Painted Pottery has started to peel. Is this normal?
A. All of our Antiqued Finish Pottery is made by hand on a potter's wheel and stacked by hand into a traditional brick kiln. Due to the primitive nature of the kilns, some pots are in "cold spots" where their firing will be a bit lower in temperature.
These pots look and feel the same as any others, and it is usually only after a few years of watering and wear that any lack of adhesion might begin to have an effect. All of our pots are meant to age with time, weather and use to further enhance their antiqued nature -- a certain amount of variation and wear is perfectly normal. However, if you feel that your pottery is exhibiting an abnormal amount of aging, please contact us so that we can assist you.
Q. Are the glazed pots waterproof?
A. Although some of our pots are glazed on the inside bottom and in the 'well' of the saucer, they are not waterproof. Waterproofing can only be achieved when the clay is fired high enough to be vitreous, (non-porous, e.g., porcelain fixtures).
No matter how high the quality of a glaze, it will not render the pot waterproof unless the clay has been fired high enough to be non-porous, approximately 2400 degrees F (we fire to approximately 2000 degrees F). However, though the glazed pottery cannot be considered waterproof, it will certainly hold water longer than an non-glazed flower pot and saucer, though there may still be some seepage or condensation, equivalent to a glass of cold water left on a table in hot weather. Therefore, if glazed pots are to be used on wooden surfaces or carpet, or something that one doesn't want damp, a waterproof barrier such as cork or a rubber mat should be placed underneath.
Q. Is all of the pottery handmade? Where is it made?
A. All Guy Wolff Pottery is handmade and wheel-thrown. Our Terra Cotta Moss Collection is made in our small studios in Rockdale, Wisconsin (near Cambridge, approximately 20 miles east of Madison). Our line of Painted Pottery is created at our studios in Honduras.
Q. What do the numbers mean on Guy Wolff pottery?
A. Each piece of Guy Wolff Garden Pottery is stamped with a number, indicating the ''wet weight'' of clay that the potter used to make that pot. This was a system that was adopted in Victorian times by potters who specialized in horticultural wares. The idea was to standardize the sizes of certain standard horticultural forms, such as Rose Pots, Long Toms, Full Pots and Seed Pans. Guy Wolff has carried on that tradition.
Q. What saucers will work with the pottery?
A. Here's what Guy Wolff says about 'what goes under the pot': I have always said the very thing that makes clay great for flowerpots, makes clay inappropriate for saucers; the clay breathes and lets air and water circulate. Putting flowerpots on a clay saucer is like putting a sponge on your table and then filling it with water.
The answer is to use a non-clay medium to protect the saucer surface below and to make that saucer of good proportion. My favorite trick is to then fill the saucer with an appropriate colored gravel or crushed stone so that the pot can sit out of the saucer altogether. Adding moss or a little soil to grow some grasses can add a wonderful touch to the overall presentation.
Q. My pottery has changed since I planted it, what's going on?
A. Any terra cotta pot that is porous will change somewhat over time depending on what is planted in it, where is located, and what the hardness of your water may be.
Sometimes yellowing occurs in Guy Wolff pots after watering from the activation of naturally occurring sulfur compounds found in the clay. The clay we use has a fairly high sulfur content, most of which burns out in the firing process, but depending on the batch of clay from the mine, most all of our pots will have some sulfur content. Our experience is that the yellow will fade out after watering a few times, usually over the course of the first month of use, and then, where the yellowing occurred, is likely to be the first area to have moss or lichens grow (given the right conditions, of course).
Interestingly enough, there is some evidence that naturally occurring sulfur in the pot may help root development in the plants. The Guide to Plant Nutrients describes sulfur as follows: 'Sulfur - Essential to soil bacteria, plant proteins, root and seed development. Essential to soil bacteria. Essential part of plant proteins, vitamins and oils. Deficiency symptoms: Similar to Nitrogen. New leaves entirely yellow. Sulfur lowers pH in soil.'