Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: Jack Kiser and Dorothy Auman, May 17, 1983 CE


Interview of Jack Kiser and Dorothy Auman
Transcript of Interview of Jack Kiser and Dorothy Auman
Interviewee: Jack Kiser
Interviewee: Dorothy Auman
Interviewer: Michelle A. Francis
Date of Interview: May 17, 1983
(Begin Side 1)

Dorothy Auman:

. . .around here in one way or the other, didn't he? He made us a wheel. Harwood worked, and somehow or another, he ended up helpin' everybody. But now you was tellin' about this, this form that he made over here at Jase Cole's.

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, he made it at home I suppose, though.

Dorothy Auman:

How, how high was it? Would it a'been four feet?

Jack Kiser:

Oh, yeah, it would a'been.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, boy I'll tell you now, that's some big pots to be made around here.

Jack Kiser:

Well, it separated once they'd made it. It's simple, you could make it. I mean, any, anybody could do it. No skill.

Dorothy Auman:

I wonder if they've still got that. Wonder if they've still got that form.

Jack Kiser:

I don't know. It's at Jase's place. She could tell you.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

It was collapsible, wasn't it?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah. You took it out. . .

Dorothy Auman:

Take the pieces out, he says.

Jack Kiser:

[unintelligible]the shoulders on it. But you could, you could, like I say, had a key, he carved it. Take out that little piece. Then it sort of collapsed around and you could take it out a piece, and prop it up. It didn't have a bottom. Then you made your bottom on a wheel.

Dorothy Auman:

Yes, uh-huh.

Jack Kiser:

Then set the mold up there and made it. You had to,




you couldn't use regular clay, I think it would maybe a'cracked firin' it, or at least thought so.

Dorothy Auman:

Anything that big would have.

Jack Kiser:

So they made it out of clay, in other words, ground up pottery, made sure that it. . .

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah, sagger clay.

Jack Kiser:

Like you make saggers with. And then they'd switch it over to slip. It looked just a pretty as. . .

Dorothy Auman:

Wouldn't you, I wonder what happened to all those pieces?

Jack Kiser:

Huh?

Dorothy Auman:

I wonder what happened to all those pieces?

Jack Kiser:

Well, people's bought 'em. I know two or three up in the mountains bought 'em from both potters just to have it for an exhibit.

Dorothy Auman:

Ooh, I'd love to have one of those!

Jack Kiser:

I don't think anybody ever bought 'em, maybe a customer had bought 'em more than just advertisement for pottery shops or somethin'.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah.

Jack Kiser:

Harwood could make anything if he wanted to.

Dorothy Auman:

He really could. You know, she went over and saw Harwood. But he's not able to talk but just a little while at a time.

Jack Kiser:

What's the matter with him?

Dorothy Auman:

You didn't know he was sick?

Jack Kiser:

No, I heard about his wife dying.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, he's very sick. He has, he has the same thing.

Jack Kiser:

You know, back when they tore up the old, workin' on the old plank road. Did you ever see any of those candlesticks he made with them?

Dorothy Auman:

Hm-um.




Michelle A. Francis:

Hm-um.

Jack Kiser:

Well, the old plank road, you know, was made out of two or three inch lumber and they turned to lighter just because.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah. Uh-huh.

Jack Kiser:

And he turned a bunch of those old pieces and turned wooden candlesticks out of 'em. They were beautiful things.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, I declare. He can just do anything.

Jack Kiser:

He can.

Dorothy Auman:

He really can. Now--what year did you start workin' in the pottery?

Jack Kiser:

Well, it had to be after I come out the Navy, so it's about '30 almost.

Dorothy Auman:

.1930. Yeah. Well you started where, up here at Walter Lineberry's?

Jack Kiser:

I never seen a piece turned.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah, Walter was tellin' me that you said you just went in and just, just started up turnin' big stuff. Said you didn't know you couldn't. (Laughter)

Jack Kiser:

Walter Lineberry, he, he'd worked at Jase's and I didn't. You know, folks think that if it's hard, it's hard. I didn't, I thought it was just, I.

Dorothy Auman:

He didn't know it was hard so he went to work on it.

Michelle A. Francis:

So you just went in there?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Huh!

Jack Kiser:

They made stoneware then.

Dorothy Auman:

How long'd you work with Walter?

Jack Kiser:

Oh, Bascome King worked over there till he come-- [unintelligible]. It wasn't too long. At that time, you know, some of 'em was only payin' maybe 10, 12 cents a gallon.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.




Jack Kiser:

Well, when I turned stoneware with Arthur [unintelligible]. Wait a minute, I can't even call names anymore.

Dorothy Auman:

Comer?

Jack Kiser:

Well, he only got 12 cents for his. I was thinkin' 'bout a person should have bought a few truckloads. That one jug that I made over there, and I think it cost me 12, 15 cents and some guy from [unintelligible]over there a professor, "I'll give you $25 for that jug." If he'd offered me $2 I might a'took it! But he offered me $25! (Laughter)

Dorothy Auman:

Scared you, didn't it! (Laughter) Well, after you left, after you left Walter Lineberry's, did you go to work for Jase over there then?

Jack Kiser:

For who?

Dorothy Auman:

Jase Cole?

Jack Kiser:

Jase? Yeah.

Dorothy Auman:

Well you stayed with him a right good while, then didn't you?

Jack Kiser:

Well, I didn't stay nowheres very long. (Laughter)

Dorothy Auman:

I was just tellin' her that you went from one shop to the other shop and turned.

Jack Kiser:

I was what they called a "boomer", I believe.

Dorothy Auman:

A journeyman potter.

Jack Kiser:

I'd go from one place to the other.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah.

Jack Kiser:

I can't stay.

Michelle A. Francis:

What did you do after you worked for Jase Cole?

Jack Kiser:

Well, I don't know which pottery. Arthur Cole, Herman Cole, I don't remember.

Michelle A. Francis:

When you first started and you didn't know anything about it and you thought it was easy, did you just kind of experiment on your own, or did you kind of copy shapes that other potters were turning?

Jack Kiser:

Well, the only turnin', the only wheel I ever saw was right when I started.




Michelle A. Francis:

You had never seen anybody turn?

Jack Kiser:

I cain't remember as I did.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah.

Dorothy Auman:

They said that he just put down like 10, 12, 15 pounds on that wheel and just went to work on it and turned it.

Michelle A. Francis:

And just turned it.

Dorothy Auman:

It was just that simple for him.

Jack Kiser:

Well, don't you think it would be simpler for some other young person that didn't, that hadn't seen it done and heard that it was hard to learn or somethin'?

Dorothy Auman:

It might be.

Michelle A. Francis:

It might be.

Dorothy Auman:

It might be. (Laughter) Well, what, when did you work over at Charlie Comer's?

Jack Kiser:

That's the name I was tryin' to think of.

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh.

Jack Kiser:

Oh, I don't know. It was during the, before the war, during the Depression. I know Walter Lineberry told me about this nigger that used to turn over at [unintelligible]Mill. He broke the record, he turned a hundred gallons of pottery one day. Wasn't that the longest day in the year. So, Ronnie Brewer was makin' balls for me.

Dorothy Auman:

That was Rance Steed you're talkin' about now.

Jack Kiser:

I don't know.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah, Rance Steed was his name.

Jack Kiser:

Well, he told me but I don't--so me and Ronnie decided we'd see how much we could make. 'Course he was probably makin' gallon stuff and we made 4-gallon jugs. I think we made two-hundred-and-some gallons by 12:00 and went home.

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

(Laughter)

Jack Kiser:

You turn, don't you?

Dorothy Auman:

I turn, but I don't turn that much and I don't turn big stuff.




Jack Kiser:

Well, I reckon you'd turn more gallons, you know, you got paid by the gallon.

Dorothy Auman:

Yes, if I got paid by the gallon, I might, it might entice me to turn more pieces.

Jack Kiser:

A 4-gallon churn, I believe, we broke the record just because we was turnin' 4-gallons.

Dorothy Auman:

Jack, today, if you had a piece of clay and a wheel, do you think you could turn?

Jack Kiser:

I doubt it.

Dorothy Auman:

Oh, I don't believe--it's like ridin' a bicycle. I bet you'd just go right. . .

Jack Kiser:

No, it's not like ridin' a bicycle.

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) I bet you'd go right to it.

Jack Kiser:

I [unintelligible]Arthur Cole a long time, at Sanford.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah.

Jack Kiser:

And at that time I had a thrashin' machine and I'd quit and come home and thrash wheat for a couple of months and go back over there and it was awkward as the dickens the first day.

Dorothy Auman:

Just gettin' back in the groove. Yeah. Well, you're sort of noted for turnin' big stuff. Now, on the average, what was your largest pieces, like when you turned at Jase's and when you turned at Royal Crown, you turned big stuff. You know, stuff like this. What was the average poundage in a piece that you would make?

Jack Kiser:

Oh, I don't remember.

Dorothy Auman:

Well you turned big things, large pieces.

Jack Kiser:

No, we didn't have nothin' but a kick wheel. You couldn't do a, you couldn't kick it and get too much, you know. At that time, 'bout 22, 23 inches is 'bout as high as you'd get I reckon.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, that's a big piece of pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, it is.

Jack Kiser:

Well, 20 inches I think is a nice piece of pottery.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah. Do you remember how many pounds of clay you'd put in that?




Jack Kiser:

No, I don't.

Dorothy Auman:

You would cap it one time, or twice?

Jack Kiser:

The largest ones, twice.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah, see. Now he capped it just, he, he. . .

Jack Kiser:

I believe there's an old picture here of uh, . . .

Michelle A. Francis:

He'd turn it, a piece, up a certain height? And then turn another piece to cap it with?

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh. Cap it off, set it off. And then turn the bottom and set this other piece back up on it.

Jack Kiser:

Philmore Graves, you know, he turned at, Jase's a while.

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh. Yeah Philmore married Nell.

Jack Kiser:

Mm-hum. He never could turn any size, you know.

Dorothy Auman:

No, he turned some nice pieces, but it never was any size that he turned. But you've always, when anybody mentions Jack Kiser, it's big stuff, you know. Really large pieces.

Jack Kiser:

Now there's one of Philmore here with a big piece. He wanted to have his picture made with it. All I got's ponies now.

Michelle A. Francis:

Have you got any other pictures of potters or yourself or other people?

Dorothy Auman:

He can't hear you.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's all right. Mr. Kiser, have you got any photographs of old potteries that you worked at?

Jack Kiser:

I'm looking for one, but I can't. And you know that I had no tellin' how many pieces of pottery, give this one and that one away, and I'm down to nothin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

What do you, you've got a piece in the kitchen you keep lookin' at?

Jack Kiser:

Huh?

Michelle A. Francis:

Have you got one in the kitchen? You keep lookin'.

Jack Kiser:

No. I think there's one or two maybe in that other room.

Michelle A. Francis:

I'd like to see them.




Jack Kiser:

Hate to have lost that one of Philmore. I think I had it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you find turning big pots more of a challenge?

Jack Kiser:

Huh?

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you find that turning big pots was more of a challenge?

Jack Kiser:

No. I didn't think so. Charlie Craven turned just as big as anybody. Did you know him?

Dorothy Auman:

Yes. Uh-huh.

Jack Kiser:

He turned big stuff down there at the. . .

Dorothy Auman:

Merry Oaks.

Jack Kiser:

No, at uh, Cole's son" what was his name? Run that pottery down there at Smithfield.

Dorothy Auman:

Herman.

Jack Kiser:

Herman. Yeah, he made big stuff, I mean Charlie turned some.

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh. Yeah. But he didn't make anything bigger than what you made.

Jack Kiser:

Well, just as big, I imagine.

Dorothy Auman:

Well.

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, Charlie Craven did. He had a reputation of makin' big stuff.

Dorothy Auman:

Yeah, he did.

Mrs. Kiser:

Is he still workin'?

Dorothy Auman:

He turns a little bit and they fire it out at Jugtown now. He turns just, you know, a few pieces now and then.

Mrs. Kiser:

How old is he?

Jack Kiser:

Who?

Dorothy Auman:

Charlie.

Jack Kiser:

Charlie Craven?

Dorothy Auman:

Mm-hum.




Jack Kiser:

I thought he lives in Raleigh.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, he is, but he's got, he's set him up a wheel in his garage out there and he turns a few pieces and will bring it over to Jugtown and they fire it for him. I don't know how old he is. I really don't. He had a, he's got a son that looks just like him and his son and he looks the same age.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Dorothy Auman:

So when nobody, you know when they're ageless, it's hard to tell.

Jack Kiser:

Oh, there's Philmore.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a big piece, isn't it?

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh. Oh, that's nice, isn't it?

Michelle A. Francis:

Those are good photographs. Where was this taken?

Dorothy Auman:

Cole's.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was this at Cole's?

Jack Kiser:

I took it.

Michelle A. Francis:

You took it?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, that's up at Jase Cole's. Him and myself turned in the same room. I remember those tall trees there. I went down to Herman Cole's, me and uh, Cole, oh, what's his name. I can't think of names. And we saw that, he hadn't seen that piece before so, I come back and made one like we'd seen there. And I heard that Charlie Craven had made it. So Philmore wanted his picture made with it, to make us think.

Dorothy Auman:

He made it. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

Uh-huh.

Dorothy Auman:

Do you have a picture of yourself?

Jack Kiser:

Huh-uh.

Dorothy Auman:

Not a single picture?

Jack Kiser:

That makes me mad. That I've got pictures of the Great Wall of China and I made the pictures. Haven't got a picture of myself. I made the pictures, I never thought about myself. I made quite a few pictures when we were on the Great Wall and good pictures, good as those. They're all of somebody else. I had one of myself I made it




standing up there on the wall, and it made a double exposure, so you can't hardly tell who it is. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

When was this trip?

Jack Kiser:

Huh?

Michelle A. Francis:

Tell me about this trip that you took with the photographs. What did you say you took a photograph of that was double-exposed?

Jack Kiser:

I can't hear.

Dorothy Auman:

When did you go to take the picture of the Great Wall of China? When you was in service?

Jack Kiser:

When I was in the Navy.

Dorothy Auman:

In the Navy?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, the ship stayed in China. I stayed in China, I was up and down the coast and we caught the train and went up there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you see any Chinese pottery?

Jack Kiser:

No, I wasn't interested in it. I didn't. . .

Dorothy Auman:

Michelle, have you got your camera with you?

Michelle A. Francis:

I do. I should.

Dorothy Auman:

Why don't you take a picture of him with a piece of his pottery now. At least you'd have that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Dorothy Auman:

You know, at least you'd have that much on it.

Michelle A. Francis:

I'm trying to decide. I've got black and white film and I've got color film.

Dorothy Auman:

Jack, would you let us copy these?

Michelle A. Francis:

Could we borrow these?

Dorothy Auman:

And copy them?

Michelle A. Francis:

And make copies of them?

Jack Kiser:

Sure.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, you know now, I'll take care of 'em. Now she'll take 'em to the archives over at Raleigh and they'll just make copies of 'em.




Michelle A. Francis:

They'll make copies and then if anybody ever wants any copies, you can just tell. . .

Dorothy Auman:

And then they'll be there always. But now on the back of the master one, be sure and tell that Jack made that and he's standin', posin' beside of it, because there's no point in him gettin' credit.

Michelle A. Francis:

No, I'll do that. Did you make both of these? Did you make that one, too?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay. Do you know what year this was made?

Jack Kiser:

No, I guess it was in the early '30s.

Michelle A. Francis:

In the 1930s?

Jack Kiser:

Jase was payin' two dollars a day for work and uh, he was payin' more than he needed to. People talked of how nice he was.

Dorothy Auman:

I started to say, along about that time a dollar a day was goin' wages.

Jack Kiser:

Yeah. He paid two dollars. And that was equal to twenty-five or thirty dollars now. You could live good on two dollars.

Michelle A. Francis:

What about this little, it looks like it's going to be a pitcher without, it doesn't have a handle on it yet?

Jack Kiser:

What?

Michelle A. Francis:

Do you recognize that?

Dorothy Auman:

That little pot.

Michelle A. Francis:

Little pot.

Jack Kiser:

This one?

Dorothy Auman:

No.

Michelle A. Francis:

The little one over on the other side.

Jack Kiser:

No, I don't know what that is.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, we sure would appreciate that.

Jack Kiser:

Did you ever know Philmore?

Dorothy Auman:

Mm-hum. Yeah.




Jack Kiser:

The biggest liar. . .

Dorothy Auman:

I know it.

Jack Kiser:

. . . that I ever heard, but he never told a lie that hurt anybody.

Dorothy Auman:

On anybody else. It was always on himself. That's sayin' a lot, isn't it? (Laughter)

Jack Kiser:

I got the biggest kick, there was some Northern men down there and they were goin' huntin', bear huntin', and I don't know what, but Philmore told them about that this man up in Tennessee, he had him, he kept a gang of Plott hounds, I think that's the fastest bird dog. I hadn't heard of 'em until he told me, he said he kept 'em. And he went up there a couple times a year. He says, "I get the biggest thrill crawlin', crawlin' in a cave after a bear with a flashlight in one hand and a .45 automatic in the other." Said, "I get the biggest thrill out of that as anything." "I bet you do."

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) I don't believe I would.

Jack Kiser:

That's the kind of tales he told. (Laughter)

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) How 'bout the time that he told about that he, he was, him and a general was always buddy-buddies, and the general came in and flew him in here and he parachuted out and he landed out there on the, on the yard of his house.

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, but wasn't, somebody was dead, didn't it?

Dorothy Auman:

Yes, that's what it was! He came in when Jase died!

Jack Kiser:

Yeah. He told me, he said. . .

Dorothy Auman:

That's what it was. That's what he told us!

Michelle A. Francis:

He parachuted in?

Dorothy Auman:

He was crazy!

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, he told me about it, "I just," he told me 'bout, says, "I just took my suitcase in one hand and my parachute and stepped out the door."

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) Well, I know who went after him. Harwood went after him, up, he came by train, up at the Greensboro! (Laughter)

Jack Kiser:

But such as that.




Dorothy Auman:

Well, he came in with a big tale, anyway.

Jack Kiser:

And, uh, he drank quite a bit, you know. 'Course, we all went bear huntin' a time or two with him down, uh, oh, Wilmington, up the coast, I forget, it's some up there. Well, this uh, boy lived up here, married Jase Cole's girl, he killed a bear back in the woods. So Philmore, he's drinkin' pretty heavy and he took charge, says, "Now you boys stand on the bumper and I'll drive the pick-up to [unintelligible], and they started to get goin'. He was givin' all the boys a bit of rope. "Mr. Kiser, you stand up on this stump here and holler every once in a while so we'll know how to get back." And they did. They went down there and after a while I saw 'em comin' back draggin' the bear. And on behind here comes two fellas leadin' Philmore (Laughter).

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) He couldn't even stand still.

Jack Kiser:

He couldn't hardly walk. It took two men (cough). . .

Dorothy Auman:

Well.

Jack Kiser:

But, well, that's one thing you could say about Philmore. He never told anything that hurt anybody.

Dorothy Auman:

That's right. Was him and Nell married when you was workin' down there?

Jack Kiser:

Mm-hum.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, they. . .

Jack Kiser:

Philmore was tellin' a couple of ladies from up north, they were askin', "Were you, Mr. Graves, were you raised in this, a native of this?" "Oh, no," he says. "I was a southern representative for Standard Oil of New Jersey," I believe, and he was down through here and he just seen the sign, "Stop and see it made," and he became so fascinated with watchin' people turn that he asked Mr. Cole would he learn him to turn. And he went back to New Jersey and resigned a good job and come back here.

Michelle A. Francis:

(Laughter) He could tell a story, couldn't he?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah. And tell a good one. (Laughter)

Dorothy Auman:

Oh me. Well.

Jack Kiser:

If you make you a mold like Harwood made for Jase, it'd be no trouble to make it.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, I sure would love to make one that big. I would just, for my own satisfaction. I would never sell it. I'd just make it.




Jack Kiser:

Well, we did it. I made 'em when they had the mold up there. I was makin' saggers then. I learned how to make 'em down at Herman's and Jase had me to make 'em. You beat out your clay about that thick and the clay was that crushed stuff. And then cut it in strips, pick up a piece of it and put it on there and I just keep--it doesn't take long to do it, to build one. Then you slick it up and put slip on it.

Dorothy Auman:

I don't see how you get that mold out of there, though.

Jack Kiser:

Well, that's. . .

Dorothy Auman:

That's, that would be the. . .

Jack Kiser:

. . .Harwood made it for that purpose.

Dorothy Auman:

That would be the trick of it, really, without breakin' your pot.

Jack Kiser:

[unintelligible]it was pieces, cabinetwork, they were probably as wide as your three fingers.

Dorothy Auman:

Like stays?

Jack Kiser:

Yeah, just like you had a'mold that thing and split it, like maybe there's one little piece, not much more than your finger, that you could get it out of, and that loosened up the rest of it.

Dorothy Auman:

Uh-huh, yeah. Well, I'd sure love to try that. Would you come up and help me some day?

Jack Kiser:

If I'm out. I don't know about makin' a mold or not.

Dorothy Auman:

(Laughter) Oh me!

Jack Kiser:

Get Harwood to make you a mold.

Dorothy Auman:

Well, maybe we could get you and Harwood up there. Maybe we could get the thing together.

Jack Kiser:

I don't know whether that mold would be around Jase's or not.

Dorothy Auman:

Sure would love to see it.

Michelle A. Francis:

You gonna ask him about your pot?

Dorothy Auman:

We found this pot, here. Look at the tail on it. Does it ring a bell to you? Walter said that he thought that you had one like it that you had made.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you make one that's stoneware?




Jack Kiser:

Huh?

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you have a pot like that that you made that's stoneware?

Jack Kiser:

Not like this.

Dorothy Auman:

Could we see it?

Jack Kiser:

It's hangin' out there in the garage if somebody hasn't stolen it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Let's go.

(End tape)

Title
Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: Jack Kiser and Dorothy Auman, May 17, 1983 CE
Description
Michelle A. Francis' interview with potters Jack Kiser and Dorothy Auman, in which they discuss the process of creating pottery and various North Carolina potters, including African-American potter Rance Steed. Mr. Kiser's technique for creating very large pots is a focus of discussion.
Date
March 17, 1983
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
Local Identifier
OHSOAD
Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subject(s)
Spatial
Location of Original
Jenkins Fine Arts Center
Rights
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