Interview with Mildred Moore
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Moore: We get it from the Pamunkey River shore, and we process the clay—we bring it home, and we put it in sheets of canvas on the ground, and let it dry out, then we take it and break it up in small pieces and put it in water. Then we take a screen and stir it up and pour it through the screen to get all the rocks and things out of it. And then we leave it in a bucket with water, and when the clay goes down, we get the water out of it, until it gets like cream, and then we take it and we pour it on plaster of Paris vats, and we leave it on there until it gets to the consistency of clay, and then that’s when we use it.
Wood: Do you have to mix stuff with it, like crushed-up shells or anything like that?
Moore: We only use crushed-up shells when we’re making cooking pots, for expansion; we use shells and sand, coarse sand, and parts of old pottery—we break up in tiny pieces and use that in it too.
Wood: So when you make a pot do you, how do you make it, what’s the process for making the pot?
Moore: You just knead it and ball it up, and you gotta make sure you get all the air out of it before you make a pot, because if you leave air in, then when it’s cooking it’ll blow up on you. (laughter) It does. You just leave a little bit of air, and it’ll blow on you. And the painted pots are glazed and fired in an electric kiln, and our black pots are fired outside, with pine needles, leaves, wood, any kind of outside material.
Wood: Do you have your own kiln here?
Moore: Yes, I own my own electric kiln. My other kiln I use, I been using an old kiln to fire in, you know, for outside, cause I don’t have it. Sometimes I go to down to my son’s, and he has a dugout pit, and he’ll do some for me.
Wood: How did you learn this? How old were you when you started?
Moore: About seven years old, I was, when I first started doing pottery, which was a small thing. We used to go to school, and an hour after school, we would go down to the pottery school, which we had in the back of the museum, and some of the ladies would let us make canoes and little things out of that, to get the feel of the clay. And those women back then, they used to work there from eight in the morning till four in the afternoon, just like a job, you know.
Wood: And they sold their stuff to people?
Moore: They sold their wares. We used to have a passenger train come through here—we still have a train come through here, but it’s not a passenger anymore. And it would go from Richmond to West Point. And the ladies—we used to have a log cabin as you come into the reservation. The chimney’s still there. And the ladies used to put their wares in that, and the train would stop, and they would buy pottery. People off of the—visitors would buy pottery when the train would stop, they’d come in there and get the pottery. But that had fallen down years ago. And most of the women made pottery, because the men, they did the fishing and hunting and the gardens, whatever. So the women were the ones that made pottery.
Wood: Do you teach other people how to make pottery now?
Moore: I’m teaching a—we have an intertribal women’s group, and I’m teaching some of the women and the children how to make pottery because I feel that I’ve gotten much older and, you know, I would like to leave something in remembrance of me.
Wood: Are there any people on the reservation that are doing pottery the way that you did?
Moore: There’s only one more potter in here [on the reservation], and she does some, but we have a little girl here, she’s thirteen years old, and she’s gonna be a great potter. She’s gonna be great.