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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The "A Town Called Still Pond" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just turned off Maryland Rt. 213 in the direction of the a little town called Still Pond.  Hadn't made a visit to the town for over 20 years when we used to vacation along the Sassafras River in an area called Kentmore Park.  Vacationed every summer along the Sassafras with our neighbors and friends, the Howry's.  Their three children and our three children were similar ages and we spent many a summer along the banks of the river swimming, fishing and boating.  Many happy and memorable times are part of the history of our families during those years which seem like so long ago.  Well, today Carol saw the sign along Rt 213 with the arrow pointing to the right so we decided to give it a try.  Funny how some things never change as we passed by a few houses and then the farm that always grew sunflowers in the summer.  
The barn where Doug makes his pottery.
Made the final turn and within minutes we saw the old wooden barn with the still familiar sign out front that read "Doug Sassi - Pottery."  The sign was faded, but the barn was still the same with the front doors opened and shelves lined with ceramic pieces inviting you to stop and take a look.   I pulled the car off the road as if it was drawn to the building.  "Now what do we do?" Carol asked.  "I guess we go in and see if we can find Doug.  
Across from the barn is his home where he displays his work.
Not sure what he will look like, but maybe we will recognize him," I said.  So we walked toward the barn door and as we grew close someone emerged from the barn.  Didn't recognize the fellow so we asked if he was Doug and the conversation and visit ended about an hour later with a bag full of his ceramics in our car.  Made a visit to his shop across the street in his home to see what he had presently been making.  Big variety of new pottery that is individually hand thrown or slab built by him.  He uses American clays and mixes his glazes so they contain no lead or other toxic materials.  All the pottery is fired to stoneware temperatures so they can be used in the oven, microwave and dishwasher.  Saw a mug on the shelf that read "SASSI-ITALY-TOURS.COM" and asked what that meant.  He told us that he has for years taken groups to Italy on tour.  

Used to take groups of students from the private school where he taught art to Italy and the parents finally asked him to usher them also.  Well, the rest is history and he now accompanies groups to Italy a few times a year.  "Wow, you're just the person we wanted to find," Carol said to him.  "We have been thinking of returning to Italy, but didn't want to do it without having a tour guide to take us."  
Doug wraps our purchase.
That began a long conversation about how, where, when and what he does for the people who travel with him.  He gave us a suggested itinerary for a 12 day trip.  We immediately saw that we could stay in Venice for a few days which was one of the things we had talked about doing if we ever returned to Italy.  After an hour we finally left with the idea that "Yes", we may be able to return once again to a place that brought back many fond memories.  We promised to stay in touch and departed the old barn in Still Pond.  Time to find a few friends that may want to share the experiences we did years ago when we traveled to Italy.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - After returning home I emailed him a photo of his barn which I took about 25 years ago with my Polaroid camera and had manipulated to make it look like a painting.  He asked me to make him a print and we could barter for some of his artwork when we return in the future.
My Polaroid print of Doug's studio from  over 25 years ago.
 

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