Ceramic Vase

Walter B. Stephen

Walter B. Stephen (1875-1961) spent his early childhood in Iowa and Nebraska. Stephen's family moved to Tennessee, near Memphis, where he and his mother Nellie Randall Stephen opened a pottery shop about 1904. They called their pottery "Nonconnah" and began by carving ashtrays, figurines, boxes, and other small articles from the local clay. By 1905 production was good enough that Walter was working at it full time. "Nonconnah" (native American for "long stream") was marked on the base with white porcelain or black slip. Nellie Stephen decorated pieces by brushing on successive layers of translucent, porcelain slip decorations. In 1910 Nellie and her husband both died. By 1913 Walter Stephen had left Tennessee and settled in Skyland, NC. By early 1914 he had opened a second pottery also called "Nonconnah." Here he continued to make his decorated ware, but didn’t find the pottery succeeding in the way he had hoped and sold it in 1916. By this time he was friends with Oscar Bachelder and worked and studied with him in 1920. In 1925 Stephen began construction of his third pottery in Arden, NC calling it "Pisgah Forest Pottery." He continued his decorated ware called Cameo, but also began experimenting with other color glazes and with crystalline glazes. He semi-retired in 1949 leaving more day-to-day issues with his younger workers Grady Ledbetter and Tom Case, but continued producing pottery until his death in 1961.

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