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07/01/2022 03:47PM ● By Jessica Wilmes
When people purchase a ceramic piece from Harold Kaplan, they receive more than the piece itself. Whether a serving bowl, a mug, or a plate set, Harold’s pieces are a form of connection. Connection to art, connection to sharing with one another, and connection to the past.

Dating as far back as the Neolithic period, pottery is one of the oldest human inventions. Forming objects by mixing clay and water was the start. Once the technique of firing came along, a booming artisanal industry made its mark on human history. And while today’s pottery tools have evolved, they are still heavily rooted in their origins, with the main tool being human hands.

This is what most excited Harold. Seeing friends throughout high school and college working with pottery, he was drawn to the idea of working with his hands to express and create. He tried a number of art mediums but ultimately returned to pottery while attending the University of Vermont, where he took a pottery class his senior year. “I was always interested in working with my hands,” says Harold. “Making beautiful, useful things is something that I prized.”

 The large light blue serving bowl uses the thickness of the rim to capture the texture of the humpback whale's skin.


Having now been practicing the ancient art form for nearly three decades, he is still excited by what pottery offers in the pieces that can be created through different forms, colors, and glazing techniques. Furthermore, being extremely technical, pottery offers endless learning opportunities; even veteran potters are learning new techniques and styles every day. 

 When asked how long it takes to create a single piece, Harold says with a chuckle, “The wise-guy answer is 30 years,” alluding to the arduous yet fulfilling journey he’s been on to get to the skill level he is at now.

Making a pot or part of a composite piece like a teapot may take five minutes or an hour of throwing time. Sometimes the piece needs to dry or set on the wheel for an additional hour before the finishing moves are made. Other times a soft, quick sweep of the rib (potter’s tool) will take seconds to complete. It constantly varies, and for that, Harold is kept intrigued.

And, time on the wheel is just the beginning. Several days later, after drying, trimming, loading, firing, unloading, glazing, and firing again, a piece is ready for market. It is usually a two-week turnaround time from start to finish. To ensure quality, Harold creates his own glaze recipes, which are food, microwave, and dishwasher safe. His most popular pieces, he notes, are his large serving bowls. He also receives a lot of special orders for whole plate and bowl sets.

 This large dark blue glazed serving bowl was inspired by the waves of the ocean. The edges hold utensils in a pleasant angle. Opposite: The flask-vase is a thrown cylinder, altered with pressure. The slip designed surface allows for the glaze to move and variegate.


When conceptualizing designs, Harold draws inspiration from the natural world around him and manifests it through clay. One of his bowls, for example, mimics a whale’s mouth, like the humpbacks he once paddled with in Sitka, Alaska, and later saw on the National Geographic series Secrets of the Whales. Then there’s the lotus serving bowl that captures the shape of the well-known flower. “I like capturing journeys through clay,” says Harold. “I can see things and understand how to transform them into clay.”


Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Harold came to Burlington in 1986. After school at UVM, he worked as a para educator and with a homeless organization while working on his clay career. In 2007, after the of his mother, he decided to delve into his pottery passion. "I wasn't that excited about the Shelter work I was doing, or becoming an elementary educator. My mom's passing served as the impetus to become a full- time potter. It helped me to realize there is no dress-rehearsal in life and to get a move on."

Initially setting up shop and living in the same apartment, Harold now has a separate studio space in the south end of Burlington and maintains his apartment with his two daughters and dog. He spends weekdays in the studio creating pieces and the weekends at farmers markets showcasing them to the local community. While the farmers markets have been largely successful for him, he has seen a rise in online sales, now making up 50 percent of his business. 


Harold contributes much of his opportunity and success in pottery to the community in Burlington, their support, and the access he has to affordable housing. “I’m lucky to live here and do this; I’m not sure I could anywhere else,” remarks Harold. “The community of people who live here is very pro-craft, pro-creative, and supportive.”

Regularly attending workshops and learning from other dedicated potters, Harold is committed to putting in the time and work necessary to advance his passion and career in pottery. In addition to selling his pieces, Harold offers intensive pottery classes in his studio. The courses are available for one or two people at a time. However, Harold hopes to expand his studio in the future and allow for up to six students. Private lessons are $70 per person, plus a $50 material fee that includes clay, tools, glazes, and firing.

For more information on purchasing pieces, requesting custom orders, or joining a class, contact Harold directly via email or his website. Additionally, you can find Harold at the Stowe Farmers Market every Sunday and Burlington Farmers Market every other Saturday. 

Harold Kaplan Pottery

309 Saint Paul Street 

Burlington, VT 

(802) 864-9045 

[email protected] 

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