Judith Miller ~ A Peek Inside the Creation of The Potter’s Lady and Her Pottery

Nathan Ham Photography|www.whataham.com

Guest post


Judith Miller

A Peek Inside the Creation of

The Potter’s Lady and Her Pottery

Bethany House


Through the years, one of the things that has provided me with lots of challenges as well as great fun (and we all need a few challenges and lots of fun in our lives) is conducting the research for my books. I love history, so I view the historical portion of writing a novel as the backbone of my stories. Generally, an historical setting and/or unique occupation provide me with the ideas for my books. This held true with my current series, Refined by Love, which is set in West Virginia.

The Potter’s LadyThe Potter's Lady

When Rose McKay convinces her brother, Ewan, to invest in a pottery business, she’s determined to assist him in making the venture a success. Having just graduated from the Philadelphia School of Design for Women, she believes she can design pieces that will sell well. In her efforts to help the pottery flourish, Rose reconnects with Joshua Harkness, who oversees his own family’s pottery works in a nearby town.

Rylan Campbell has never liked change, but the new owners of the pottery seem to be the decent sort. He just wishes Rose wouldn’t insist on cleaning and moving everything. But when McKay Pottery starts losing business to the Harkness company, Rylan realizes Joshua might be taking advantage of Rose.

Then Franklin Hotels announces a design contest. Winning the Franklin contract would be exactly the boost McKay Pottery needs, so Rose and Rylan work closely together to create something magnificent. With Joshua’s company as their main competition, can Rylan convince Rose her trust in Joshua may be misplaced?

I decided I’d like to write a trilogy that would encompass a wee bit of my Scotch-Irish heritage and set the novels in West Virginia—the place where my father’s family eventually settled. I also wanted to incorporate the beauty of the state and reveal some of the occupations (other than coal mining) that were a part of West Virginia history. Because I still have family living in West Virginia, I knew the clay deposits became an important resource for production of bricks, tiles and pottery during the 19th Century, so I decided to focus my attention on those three trades. I always learn a great deal while researching, and this series has produced some great resources for me, and also provided an opportunity to connect with family.

While researching for The Potter’s Lady, I decided I wanted to set the story in Grafton, West Virginia. I was able to locate several books and historical data that made the town a good choice for the pottery. There were several potteries in Grafton during the time period as well as a hotel near the railroad.


In the early stages of my research, I discovered there was a ceramics museum in East Liverpool, Ohio, not too great a distance from my sister’s home in West Virginia. We set off to visit there after a tour and interview with the historian at the Homer Laughlin China Company in Newell, West Virginia. Many of you may be familiar with the Fiestaware produced by the Homer Laughlin Company. Pictures aren’t permitted on the tour, but I highly recommend a visit to the company. Some of the original structures now house the business offices and are a delight to anyone who loves historical buildings.


Visiting the Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool was even better than expected. I can’t tell you the excitement I experienced when I walked downstairs to the lower level of the museum and discovered a life-sized diorama of pottery production during the late 1860’s and early 1870’s. While I enjoyed the upper level of the museum where a variety of pottery was on display, it was the lower level that captivated my interest and provided me with a plethora of research information for this book. Occupying the former post office, the museum building is a handsome granite and limestone building and is on the National Register of Historic Places.


I wanted to share a few of the pictures I took of the diorama while I was in the museum because the pictures portray a some of the jobs you’ll read about in The Potter’s Lady. These two picture is a jiggerman who is placing clay on a mold and to his right, the woman is a handler, placing a handle on cups. The young boy at the right would be a runner who carried heavy planks of greenware to the kilns.


(These jobs wouldn’t have been side by side in a real pottery, but due to space limitations creating the display, it was necessary to take a bit of latitude.) This next picture displays decorators at work. Creating unique designs for the McKay Pottery plays an important role in The Potter’s Lady.


Finally, I’ve included a picture that was taken of workers outside the Burford Pottery in 1896.

JM 6

I hope you enjoyed this snapshot into the workings of a pottery in the 19th Century and you’ll find The Potter’s Lady a story that will bring you hours of enjoyment.

Thank you, Judith!

Relz Reviewz Extras
Character spotlights on Ewan & Laura and Karlina & Dovie
Review of Somewhere to Belong
Visit Judith’s website and blog
Buy from Amazon: The Potter’s Lady or Koorong

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15 Responses to Judith Miller ~ A Peek Inside the Creation of The Potter’s Lady and Her Pottery

  1. So fun! While the thought of writing sounds appealing, just thinking about all of the research sounds so daunting! So I am always impressed by all of the work that goes into the making of historical novels :-) And honestly, I don’t think I’ve visited any sites that have been a setting of one of my favorite books! Though I would love to visit Italy and finally understand a little bit more of what Lisa T Bergren was writing about in her River of Time series, or England and London, as a lot of wonderful novels have been set there.

  2. As a potter, this really interested me. And since I’m not a production potter, (It’s more of a hobby) I can’t imagine sitting behind a wheel all day or putting handle after handle on cup and mugs.

    As for the answering the question, I live in the area a recent book I read is set–The Whistle Walk. :-)

  3. I would love to read this book as I have never read a book by Judith Miller. I live in Texas where many historicals take place.

  4. Deanne Gist’s book, A Bride in the Bargain, took place in Seattle during the mid 1800’s. Since I grew up with many male family members who worked logging the foothill’s of Mt. Rainier, I couldn’t help but imagine that area when reading Gist’s book.

  5. I had the privilege of visiting Vienna, Salzburg, and Mauthausen one summer. It really gave me extra perspective on WWII books set there. Especially ones involving concentration camps.

  6. I have not had the privilege of visiting any historical places where these books take place, but I have enjoyed visiting them through the books and pictures. Thanks for the information and the giveaway!

  7. I live about 30 miles from the small town of Washington, KY. This is said to be the inspiration for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic Uncle Tom’s Cabin. She is said to have witnessed a slave auction in this town near the Ohio River and her indignation sparked this book. I have visited a building there were with chains that were used to contain the slaves.

  8. Judith, I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your books! As an historian and avocational archeologist, I so much appreciate all the intense research you put into each of your stories. I hold a lot of respect for authors that spend the time not only to dig deeply into history, but that also understand the context of that history of which they write. And, of course, the more authentic in all ways, the better. I always look forward to your newest release. Thank you for wonderful books to enjoy!

  9. No, I have not visited a location where a favorite historical book has been set. There are several locations around me where movies have been made but I don’t know if any of them were a book. Looking forward to reading The Potter’s Lady. Sounds really good.

  10. Someone mentioned Seattle in the 1800’s and I have visited that!! I live on the Oregon coast and my sister-in-law lives about a half hour outside of Seattle. I’ve been down to the water front & Pike’s Place market several times. Even took the underground Seattle tour years ago…..that’s where I learned about the fire that took place and destroyed the entire central business district on June 6th 1889. And because of that,the streets in downtown Seattle now sit up to 22 feet above the original street levels. It was fascinating to learn that piece of history!
    Not sure if I’ve read a book where I actually visited that location, but maybe I have. I’ve read so many books :-) Thank you for the chance to win “The Potter’s Lady”, I’ve read and ejoyed several of your books!!

  11. I can’t remember books names from way back, but the little town I lived in for 16 years in Kansas, was in a Ghost Town book tho don’t remember who wrote. It had lots of history like being the place the cattle drives drove to put their cattle on the train to ship. They had a vat to drive the cattle through to rid the cattle from Texas of ticks. Some states didn’t have ticks. I lived across the road from where the vat was, only a large dip showing where it had been. One cafe left and mostly old timers living there. Was where my husband was born. Enjoyed this post and would love to win Judith’s book.
    Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

  12. I’ve never visited a favorite location…I can’t really say where a favorite location would be as, most good stories transform the location into a place I wish to visit.

  13. Deanne Patterson

    I used to live in West Virginia and have visited Grafton. I am a native of Pennsylvania and many books are set here including Amish books. There is so much history in Pennsylvania including Civil War history. I am a huge history reader and love visiting historical sites. Wow, the pottery pictures really make me want to visit all those places. I am so excited at the thought of reading this next book in the series. I read your Amana books as well and they are the types of stories that really stay with me ! Thank you as an author for providing such enjoyable books for us to read !

  14. Very good article! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the great writing.
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  15. No I haven’t visited any of the historical locations. But hopefully someday I will. But in the mean time I’ll visit them by reading your books.

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