All the ingredients are recyclable but, like a chocolate cake, once the piece is into the oven there is no turning back.

In 2015, Louisville Stoneware, Louisville, Kentucky, celebrates 200 years of transforming clay into versatile, functional art.     

In 1815, settlers used stoneware crocks as the “original Tupperware” for storing baking supplies like flour and sugar. By 1820, stoneware jugs were the practical answer to selling and transporting precious Kentucky bourbon. Dishware, flowerpots, and bakeware designs were soon to follow.

Today, stoneware can be put into the oven, microwave, freezer, and dishwasher. Baking pieces stay hot hours after removal from the oven. Chilled platters and wine coolers stay cool hours after removal from the freezer.

We toured the Stoneware factory in the Paristown Pointe district of Louisville. Twenty people touch each piece of Louisville Stoneware, playing an important role in its transformation from clay to functional art. Like making a recipe, every stage along the way is hands-on. Like good cooks, the artists work visually, sensuously, intuitively.

A Clay Renewable resource

Louisville Stoneware uses natural stoneware clay that is up to 250 million years old, harvested from deposits in Kentucky and Indiana. Pale grey with an earthy aroma, it is as fine as icing sugar.

B Nancy Stephen holding mug handle mold

On our factory tour, Nancy Stephen, Director of Communications & Tourism Development, holds a mug handle mold.

I Hanh Mumford is the mug handle specialist (5)

Hanh Mumford personally finishes and attaches 11,000 mug handles in a year.

I Hanh Mumford is the mug handle specialist (6)

I Hanh Mumford is the mug handle specialist (8)

Hanh painstakingly attaches the handles to the mugs. The handles do not take on the heat of a hot beverage because they are attached as a separate piece.

E Tommy Pound works by touch and look

Tommy Pound produces an 11-inch bowl.

G James Agot does the finishing

James Agot finishes a 9-inch plate. Simple tools like a bucket of water, sponge, file, and paring knife do the job. Basic kitchen tools.

H Greenware dries

K Caroline Ising personalized plate

Caroline Ising creates customized artwork for ornaments, wedding plates, and personalized dishes.

L Colleen Gipson painting

L Colleen Gipson painting (3)

Colleen Gipson’s work space is filled with pots of color. Confusing colors to the observer’s eyes because what she paints on as red eventually becomes black.

J Lisa Lightfoot applies stamps

Lisa Lightfoot presses a pre-production stamp onto a mug.

L Nancy Boon Glazing before firing (3)

Nancy Boon sprays a line-up of revolving pieces with glaze.

M Peek into the kiln

No cook can resist a peek into the kiln.

Graffiti pattern created by David Mahoney

The Graffiti pattern of Kentucky artist David Mahoney uses free-flowing playful brush strokes in a simple green and white color scheme.


Congratulations to the owners and artists of Louisville Stoneware who, for 200 years, have created national treasures, valuable pieces of Americana, by adapting to people’s needs and artistic appreciation.