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Iowa Artist

Kate Trimble

3/3/2021

Kate Trimble prefers throwing pots with earthen white clay because it “throws like butter.”

As Kate Trimble centers a mound of wet clay on her pottery wheel, she closes her eyes. It helps her with her imagination and opens her mind.

“My mind is blank,” she says. “It’s all about feel and touch, not how it looks at this stage. It’s stress relief. If it’s technically proficient, which I am, it becomes relaxing.”

Trimble has thrown clay and created pottery for 40 years. Her studio, Cattle Shed Pottery, is based out of her farm studio near Dallas Center. As it’s cold in the winter, she’s moved to an indoor wheel in the attic at Board & Batten in Dallas Center. Trimble creates functional ware pottery, which means the pottery is designed to cook or eat with. It’s not just for decoration. Trimble wants people to use her creations and prices it accordingly.

“I want people to afford it,” she says. “It might get other potters upset. I might sell more, but make less.”

Prep Iowa

Often people will ask Trimble how they can use her pottery. She suggests starting with a mug or bowl. She’s created appetizer plates, plant pots, ring holders and gnomes, which sold out quickly. People question whether pottery is safe to eat from or if it can be microwaved or put in the oven.

“Of course you can. It was heated to 2,700 degrees,” she says. “It’s a fallacy that pottery is lead-based. It’s not. It’s indestructible. That’s why you find pottery from the pyramids. It’s been around forever.”

Being an expert, Trimble also teaches pottery classes and allows people to throw a pot on the wheel.

“It looks easy,” Trimble says. “It’s not. Lots of people don’t realize, if you create one, you throw one away. Lots of potters have buckets of recycled clay.”

After she dries a piece for two days, she trims it or throws it, and 30 percent of the items have breakage. She never sells seconds or damaged pieces with blisters.

Glazing is her least favorite part, as it’s unpredictable and she makes her own glaze.

“I can tweak it. It’s always a crapshoot. It can be too thin or runny,” she says.

She keeps images simple. On some of her signature pieces, she’s carved out trees or birds with an exacto knife. Custom sets of identical plates are difficult to create.

“Even if you weigh and measure it, it’s hard to duplicate something. Every piece is unique,” she explains.

As an introvert she acknowledges the selling aspect is the hardest part of her profession.

“I see it as a self-indulgent passion I love,” she says. “I feel lucky I’ve been able to do this.”

Trimble says people love giving pottery as gifts. Her only desire is that people use her items.

“Everyone should have handmade pottery or a favorite mug in the kitchen,” she says. “It warms me to the cockles of my heart when people use my pottery.” ♦

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