Earthen Vessels Pottery, Gifts and Bistro is, at present, the newest business to locate in the city of Gleason, having opened its doors for business during the first week of July 2016.
L-R: Gleason Mayor Diane Poole, Maria McClain and Bro Jim Keeling, owners of Earthen Vessels
Mayor Poole welcomes the owners to Gleason by being their first customer
The owners of this new business are Mr. Jim Keeling and his daughter Maria McLain. Mr. Keeling, a native of West Kentucky, has been in the ministry for over 50 years, serving as a pastor and, along with his wife Dee, as a missionary in Alaska and the West Indies. He currently lives in Newbern, Tennessee and is known by many Tennesseans as “The Preaching Potter”, who has used his outstanding skills at the potter’s wheel as a ministry to illustrate Biblical truth.
The location of this business is very fitting in that its focus is on products made from clay, a mineral that is mined in large quantities in Gleason. The city of Gleason is internationally known for its large deposits of one specific type of clay, referred to as “ball clay”, an extremely rare mineral that is found in very few places around the world. Indeed, many consider Gleason the Ball Clay capital of the world.
Here, it can be noted that the role of the clay industry in Gleason has a long history, with the first clay in Gleason being dug back in 1926, from the W. R. Crawford farm, about two miles west of Gleason. During the past 90 years, ball clay has been continually shipped around the world with Gleason’s three clay companies continuing to work hard to meet the world-wide demand for Gleason’s very special type of clay.
The demand for ball clay is so great because of its fired color and because of its unique composition that adds strength and plasticity to various types of products that many of us use every day.
Given the ready availability of ball clay in the area, and the suitability of this specific type of clay for making fine pottery and other items, Gleason is a perfect match for this type of business. It should be noted that generous contributions from Imery's Ceramics, in Gleason has made it possible for Mr. Keeling to continue to have all of the quality ball clay he will need to make the fine pottery he prides himself in making.
In terms of products, Mr. Keeling has used his talents to develop a wide selection of items that will be made available to the Gleason community.
Each of the items that carries the Keeling “Makers Mark” is guaranteed to contain ball clay that has been mined right here in Gleason, Tennessee.
Mr. Keeling notes that "we are very pleased that these items made from Gleason ball clay can be made available to the residents of Gleason as well as others who desire to own a little piece of Gleason history."
The business will not only serve as a place where people can purchase a bit of Gleason history by getting top-of-the-line pottery made from Gleason ball clay but it will also feature tables and chairs where patrons can enjoy freshly ground coffee along with delicious gourmet cupcakes and muffins to go with the fresh coffee in a comfortable relaxing atmosphere. Here, Mr. Keeling’s daughter Maria McLain provides the cupcakes, muffins and coffee along with other tasty delights.
Also featured will be Goat Milk soap as well as homemade jams, jellies and preserves along with custom made cakes courtesy of Mr. Keeling's grand-daughter in law, Hanna Yates.
All food and drink items will be served using tableware that Mr. Keeling has produced using Gleason Ball Clay.
For those who might be interested, this new business also has the facilities for teaching pottery classes provided by Mr. Keeling.
Earthen Vessels Pottery Gifts & Bistro is a great new addition to the Gleason Business community. Be sure and drop by and welcome Mr. Keeling and his family to this great little town. And get a taste of some of the goodies the store has to offer and see some of the fine ball clay products that he has on display. (Story by Jim Johnson).