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Fired up in the Falls

There is something real pleasant about a drive up Jordan Street with its wonderful curves and dips in the road. It's like a meandering stream. Just before you get to the train tracks, right there across from the old Empire Cheese Factory, on the corner of Hartlot Street and Jordan Road, Sallie Thompson has established a pottery studio complete with two kilns, one electric and one for soda firing, which she fired up over Halloween weekend.

Thompson, a registered nurse, is a passionate, skilled potter. Her work is sold at Gallery 54 on Genesee Street in the village of Skaneateles. It's a cooperative of artists, and Thompson is one of artist owners.

"Potters typically make functional work," she said.

Originally from the Jamesville, Thompson got a BFA in art at Alfred University where she concentrated on printmaking. It wasn't until she moved to Bellingham, Washington after college that she fell in love with pottery. That was more than 30 years ago.

"It's a way of life," she said.

She admits the world certainly doesn't need anymore pottery, but she is compelled to keep at it.

"It's like being part of a conversation," she said.

Since then she's traveled near and far to master her craft including a stint at the Byrd Cliff Art Colony near Woodstock, which is the oldest continually operated art colony in the country. She has also taken pottery sabbaticals out west in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico and also Carbondale, Colorado, where she encountered the soda ash kiln in 2006.

Thompson said, for a soda fire, soda ash is added inside a wood fire kiln when it is very hot, it turns into a silica and puts a patina on the pieces.

"It adds a dimension to the finished piece and it is unpredictable, producing really one of a kind pieces."

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