Tom Phelps – unique production potter

The first thing you notice about any Tom Phelps pottery display is the teeth. Then when your attention is thoroughly snagged, you notice that he also has cups, bowls, and a host of dinnerware items that are just what you need for your home or for gifts.

Tom Phelps is our neighbor. He is an entertaining fellow and one of the most successful production potters in the area. Over the Labor Day Weekend  we finally got time to go over and visit him.

He has a production studio with electric kilns and several propane fired kilns on his farm just over the hill from us. You find his studio by driving down Stagecoach Road off Franklin Pike. Just look for the sign.

He gave us the full tour of his shop, introduced us to his staff and cheerfully explained his approach to making and selling pottery, but it was of little use to me. It was like Picasso explaining his painting by saying he just lays down the lines so they look right.

Tom answered every question thoroughly, but it was quite evident that I didn’t have the depth of understanding, even with years of marketing experience, to understand the nuances of his approach to marketing his wares.

All that I know is that every time I see a display of Tom’s pottery, I am drawn first to the grotesque faces on mugs and plaques, then to the standard dinnerware in long shiny rows, then to the beads and pendants. I start buying the small pieces and then begin picking up cups and bowls and before I know it am pulling out the credit card and looking at items that I have no earthly reason to buy, except that they are fascinating.Tomphelpsstandard

The toothy caricatures were first devised by his son Seth and have since become a staple of the product line.

Even his discards, like this broken pot put away on a dusty shelf, have the power to fascinate. This piece looks like someone’s rendering of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.

What stays with you the longest however is the strong, clean lines of the more standard pottery. We have a number of bowls and cups and each is a pleasure to use and a delight to the eye.

If you are visiting Floyd, be sure and plan a visit to his studio. For more information, visit his website  or send him an email at

Click on the last three images to enlarge. The details really don’t come through on the smaller images.

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