I am a 5th generation potter. My great-great grandfather was William Henry Chriscoe, whose original log cabin studio now resides in the Smithsonian Museum. I currently live in my family's hometown of Seagrove, NC where I have worked as a journeyman potter for numerous studios in the Seagrove area and assisting many local potters with their wood firings.
My Great-great Grandfather, William Henry Criscoe standing in front of his log cabin.
I was exposed to pottery at a young age, around 5 or 6. My earliest memory of working with clay is with Dot and Walter Auman. They babysat a lot of kids back then. I remember everything about that day, where I sat, what I ate. I made animals all day and Dot promised me that at the end of the day I could take a turn on the wheel. Dot told Momma that I should be a potter since I stayed so interested all day long. Around the same time, my mother Carolyne started the ceramics program at Montgomery Community College. I would tag along and I a rabbit and got in trouble for mashing the button on the pug mill to make the clay come out. My grandpa, Graham Chriscoe opened his pottery shop when I was around 9. I absorbed a great deal from working with my grandparents in their shop. Moving into my teen years I got interested in sports and other endeavors. I left to attend NC State for Agriculture Science. I actually lived above the pottery studio in college, but never set foot in it. I made my spending money by carrying pots back and forth from my Grandparents shop and painting them in the style of Graham Chriscoe. I got maybe $5 or $10 bucks a piece for them. I just didn’t really think I could make a living by making pots.
I learned my technical skills in the more traditional Seagrove fashion, by working as a production thrower in at least 20 different shops for 10 years. You make two or three hundred of the same shape and you get pretty good at it. This type of work is priced per pound and will naturally make the potter faster because the faster you are the more money you make. Sherry Caldwell-Hohl describes Chad, “My relationship with Chad started in 1999. We spent a lot of time talking about the history of Seagrove potters as he had experienced it. I was fascinated with the stories of his grandfather and great-grandfather. We also discussed the business aspects of him becoming a journeyman potter, and I encouraged him to pursue it. I think at that time, he made a commitment to his career as a potter. He has always approached pottery with hard work, diligence and extremely thoughtful planning for his career development. Chad is not a person who makes spur of the moment decisions. He spent several years working for other potters, perfecting his skills, and absorbing everything he could from his work environment. During the five years that he worked for me, I saw him grow, not just as a potter, but as a person dedicated to maintaining the heritage of Seagrove in his own work. Chad is known as one who speaks softly, but most always has a simplistic but astute approach to solving problems and making decisions.”
I recently purchased a large track of land in Moore County near the kiln sight of my Great-great Grandfather W. H. Crisco. This year I'll be building a large wood burning kiln and log constructed shed. It's a work in progress. I’ll build the shed and kiln first then, make pots to fire the kiln, then have a home opening sale to make the money to build a new shop.
Sid Luck of Luck’s Ware, coordinator of the 2008-09 TAPS (Traditional Arts Program for Students) said, “I was most fortunate to have Chad as an assistant in the TAPS program this year. He is an excellent potter, has a great rapport with students and is very dependable.” TAPS is an after school collaboration between the NC Arts Council, the NC Pottery Center, and Seagrove Elementary School. Its purpose is to provide public school students with the knowledge and practices of the Seagrove traditional pottery culture. Chad demonstrates for the public on Saturdays at the North Carolina Pottery Center. Mark Hewitt, President of the Center remarked, “Chad Brown has quietly established his presence as one of the most talented younger potters in Seagrove. We all enjoy Chad’s humor and good nature, and know how much he contributes to the NCPC with his patient, insightful demonstrations and his warm, generous personality. His beautiful pots reflect who he is.”