A Passion for Pottery

At Pocasset’s Barn Pottery, Kimberly Sheerin and Hollis Engley create beautiful pieces with distinct styles

By Kathy Shiels Tully | Photography by Hollis Engley

It was the shed that drew me to the Barn Pottery on Barlows Landing Road while driving around in Pocasset. It’s easy to drive past it, but it’s worth seeking out the charming space packed with beautiful, homemade pottery.

“We hear that all the time,” says potter Hollis Engley. “People say, ‘We’ve driven by here all the time and we finally decided to stop.’” Two years ago, he talked his partner, Kimberly Sheerin, into using the shed as a gallery to display their work and attract passersby. They opened the Barn Pottery this year, making each product they sell at a studio tucked further back behind the shed.

The couple, both business and romantic partners, followed different paths to pottery. For Sheerin, it was love at first throw while taking a class in high school. “I fell in love with working on the wheel,” she says. “It was hard, though. You need a lot of patience and persistence.”

While attending the University of New Hampshire, Sheerin majored in art and continued taking pottery classes. A fellowship awarded to Sheerin during her senior year allowed Sheerin to have her own studio. The experience changed her life.

With a degree in hand, Sheerin moved to the Cape in 1996 with her then-husband. The following year, she opened the Barn Pottery and began what’s now a two-decade career teaching classes year-round for adults and kids, summer workshops, and a special needs class at the Falmouth Art Center. With six potting wheels, classes are intimate and students receive a lot of attention while shaping bowls, platters, plates, mugs and pitchers.

“I really like to share my passion,” says Sheerin. She also started the Upper Cape Pottery Trail to highlight places in Bourne, Falmouth and Sandwich.

Engley fell into pottery later in life. A journalist and editor for more than 25 years, he says he needed to do something “not dealing with reporters or computers.” For 15 years, he ran Hatchville Pottery in Falmouth out of his garage at a house he shared with his former wife. He joined Sheerin at Barn Pottery two years ago.

Most of their work is fired in the Barn Pottery’s small, gas-fired kiln. What’s striking is Sheerin and Engley’s distinct decorating styles.

Sheerin practices Sgraffito, which means “to scratch” in Italian, by applying layers of color to hard pottery, then scratches off parts of the layers to create contrasting images and texture which reveals the clay color beneath. Sheerin’s pottery designs reflect her interest in Middle Eastern and Indian art, decorated with hand-carved, clay stamps shaped like teardrops, fans and paisleys. Prices for Sheerin’s work range from $10 to $500. Her biggest seller, a jingling goblet ($30-$40), has little clay balls baked inside a hollow bottom, causing the goblet to jingle when empty.

Engley’s decorations reflect his infatuation with “simpler, undecorated” Japanese and Korean pottery. Using a friend’s wood-fired kiln, he says, “I let the ashes do the decorations.” When fire flows through a wood-fired kiln, he explains, it creates “fly ash,” which often hits pots and sticks on, melting right into the glaze. The result is a speckled look that sometimes runs down in rivets. Engley’s “functional pottery for food and flowers”—teapots, cups, bowls, pie plates, and flower pots—run from $25 to $250.

Each piece of pottery is stamped with the artist’s first initial and collaborated pieces have an intwined “H & K.”

Is there any competition between the two? They laugh.

“She always sells more than I do,” says Engley. “There’s no competition. We sell each other’s work. But we keep track,” he adds. “People come in and buy three to four pieces of hers and one of mine.”

“Come by and see what we do. We’re always working on something. Shop local for a handmade gift or take a class,” says Sheerin.  “It’s a good rainy day activity.”

The Barn Pottery is located at 359 Barlows Landing Road, Pocasset, 508-380-3988. barnpottery.com. Kim Sheerin and members of her family will exhibit their work in several media, July 19 to Aug. 2, with a reception from 5-7 p.m. July 22 in a show called “Generations: The Art of Influence.”On July 22, Barn Pottery is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an opening reception at the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in South Yarmouth. 

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