Colonial-style ceramicist Tammy Zettlemoyer offers workshops at Savannah’s Wormsloe Historic Site

Zettlemoyer’s traveling pop-up shop carries a mix of items hearkening back to varied eras

click to enlarge A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer. - COURTESY OF TAMMY ZETTLEMOYER
Courtesy of Tammy Zettlemoyer
A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer.
For the past nine years, ceramicist Tammy Zettlemoyer has been on the road, traveling across the country packing and unpacking her beloved pottery pieces, setting up shop steps away from wherever she’s camping, all while participating in pre-1840 historical reenactments.

During February, Zettlemoyer is bringing her unique talents to one of Savannah’s most fascinating attractions: the Wormsloe State Historic Site, where time-transcending artisans frequently provide demonstrations of their centuries-old craftwork. Zettlemoyer’s visit will allow Wormsloe visitors to join in the fun and create their own authentic colonial-style pottery alongside the traveling instructor amid a beautiful outdoor setting.

“This week at the office, I can’t beat the view,” jokes Zettlemoyer of her upcoming workshops at Wormsloe, a former 18th-century plantation that is now a state park where she has previously plied her trade. “When you want to get away from modern-day, Wormsloe is just this little hidden gem.”

click to enlarge Ceramicist and historical reenactor Tammy Zettlemoyer. - COURTESY OF TAMMY ZETTLEMOYER
Courtesy of Tammy Zettlemoyer
Ceramicist and historical reenactor Tammy Zettlemoyer.
Zettlemoyer is welcoming everyone to join her Traditional Redware Pottery Workshops at Wormsloe during Feb. 18-21 and Feb. 26-28. Attendees will have the opportunity to design a sgraffito-style motif on a plate or ornament made almost exactly as it was done during colonial times.

“Sgraffito is a secondary colored slip which is lighter in color, redware body with slip on top. Once it dries to the touch but is still soft enough to ‘scatch,’ the top layer is removed so the red earthenware body underneath is the design,” explains Zettlemoyer.

Zettlemoyer is self-taught in traditional earthenware pottery − also known as German Redware − from the era 1730-1850, and is a juried member of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. Inspired by her Pennsylvania Dutch (German) heritage, her craftsmanship combines different styles, including English and Pennsylvania German sgraffito, Germanic slip trailing, and English mocha made with vinegar, manganese, turpentine, and tobacco juice.

“I brew the tobacco as tea, but the original mixture was tobacco spit and stale urine,” Zettlemoyer said, while assuring prospective workshop attendees that no human waste products are utilized in her modern-day materials. “Today I use the apple cider vinegar as its substitute.”

click to enlarge A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer. - COURTESY OF TAMMY ZETTLEMOYER
Courtesy of Tammy Zettlemoyer
A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer.
Each style translates a design on the pottery’s surface distinctively. The sgraffito bowls and plates feature intricate scratched folk-art motifs such as wavy flowers, peacocks, doves, and rabbits. Her English mocha pieces feature black markings that create designs similar to branches on a tree or a fern (akin to a “dendritic agate fossil design”) paired with a bold, contrasting white body. Stylized patterns of raised dots and gentle stripes (known as German slip-trailing) freely decorate the surface of various items with the unique whimsy of the potter’s hand.

“Working as a potter, I'm always experimenting and learning new techniques and making new wares that are rooted in history,” says Zettlemoyer.

Before going on the road regularly beginning in 2012 − to Florida and Wyoming and everywhere in between − she participated in history- or heritage-based events in her home state of Pennsylvania. By now, her peripatetic lifestyle is second nature.

click to enlarge A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer. - COURTESY OF TAMMY ZETTLEMOYER
Courtesy of Tammy Zettlemoyer
A variety of historically styled pottery created by Tammy Zettlemoyer.
“The road has been an adventure, hardship, weather, bugs, and some of the most spectacular and beautiful places, and the people I’ve met and now consider my road family. Many of us travel and live together, sometimes for days, weeks, or months,” Zettlemoyer says of the fellow historical reenactors that she often meets repeatedly at varied events. “The road is forever changing, but no matter where I go, I have my friends working side-by-side. There is a world out there of historical living, reenactments, which I’m so happy I found. It’s made for a good business and fellowship of friends.”

In addition to her pottery pieces, Zettlemoyer’s traveling pop-up shop carries a mix of items hearkening back to varied eras ranging from the 18th century up to modern times. She proffers handmade clay water-bird whistles (a historical toy from the 1700s), pit-fired and hand-rolled clay woodland-style earthenware smoking pipes, and German gin-pressed pipes.

Zettlemoyer also offers tea, mulling spices, pashmina scarves, all-natural tobacco-free smoking blends called Kinnickinnic, trinkets, and an array of kitchen utensils. However, anyone who cannot visit Wormsloe this month to peruse her complete assortment of handmade wares will still find Zettlemoyer’s pottery in the historic site’s gift shop year-round.

Otherwise, keep an eye open for Zettlemoyer whenever visiting historic landmarks nationwide.

“Home is where you are building it that week. I spend about eight months of the year traveling. So it’s sort of like having this tiny life and then going back home and having a big life. It takes some getting used to try to live tiny. It’s very liberating in a way because you’re not tied down with cleaning your house when you move it every day,” explains Zettlemoyer. “If you like being outside and going to old places with great monuments and sites, it’s a great way to travel and live.”

Wormsloe Historic State Park will host Pennsylvania colonial-style pottery instructor Tammy Zettlemoyer to teach Traditional Redware Pottery Workshops at 3 p.m. on Feb. 18 and 19, and at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 21, and on a walk-up basis during Feb. 26-28. Each workshop lasts 45 minutes. Pre-registration is required; call 912-353-3023 to reserve a spot. Workshop prices depend on the size of pottery chosen by each participant. Workshop participants’ pottery pieces will be fired in Zettlemoyer’s wood kiln at home and later shipped back to them. Visit zettlemoyerpottery.com for more details about the ceramic works, and gastateparks.org for information about Wormsloe State Historic Site.

About The Author

Nicole Youngblut

Nicole Youngblut is a contributing writer for Connect Savannah, where she covers the local art and events scene. As a graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology, she spent many years in New York City as a fashion stylist and promoter. Her passion for biographies, entertainment and the arts is the perfect...
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