Saturday, June 7, 2014


This is my second Log Cabin Journal post featuring an amazing woman of Hocking Hills.

Today, I introduce clay artisan, Jenny Beard, who is a retired Marion County school administrator. Jenny and her husband, David, moved to Hocking Hills in 2005, and together they built a beautiful home in the natural wooded setting of the Hocking State Forest.

A few years ago, Jenny was given the opportunity to put her hands into the creative art of clay, mentored by experienced artisans, Mary Holl and Bobbi Bishop. Jenny’s creative side bloomed in her clay garden pieces. In addition to earning her Master Gardener certification, Jenny, through clay art, has taken her retirement to a new and challenging level, expanding her talent.

You might ask, why clay art? What is clay art? Why has Logan Clay Products, become a sort of mecca for artists who take a fancy to making beautiful garden art out of clay sewer pipes?  It’s all a matter of perspective, you see. 

In Jenny's home gardens, she displays beautiful clay accent pieces, i.e. tall pipes and sculpture. My own garden has several of “Jenny pieces” that I cherish, because I know how much passion and energy she puts into her clay art.

Meeting Jenny at Logan Clay Products on a chilly April morning, I followed her upstairs to the work loft, where many already completed clay pieces were waiting to be put into the kiln after several weeks of drying. 

On that April morning I interviewed Jenny, two workmen rolled new manufactured pipes into to the loft area on an old loading wagon that had been in use since the early 1900’s. I watched as Jenny soaked flannel blankets in a bucket of water, and then draped them around each pipe to moisten them overnight, rendering them pliable enough to work with her hands.

Jenny moved to another area of the loft, removing a blanket from a tile she’d left the night before, ready to go to work. I sat on a small wooden stool and watched, fascinated by the process, as Jenny transformed a clay sewer pipe into a work of garden art, as seen in the photographs. This piece took about an hour to prepare. I could not believe the amount of strength it took to work and mold the clay.  

Also featured in today’s blog is Bobbi Bishop, a retired art teacher in the Worthington City School System. Bobbi Bishop and her husband Bruce Bishop, twenty-three years ago, created Lilyfest, an annual event held on the second full weekend of July. Jenny Beard is one of over eighty vendors who exhibit and sell their art to the public.

There is no admission fee to get into Lilyfest. Instead, donation barrels are located on the property, all monies going to scholarships and programming. As you can see, this pay-it-forward kind of community action and reaction is a prime example of community service at its best.

The day I visited the art loft of Logan Clay to interview Jenny, Bobbi Bishop was painting several pieces of garden art before placement in the kiln to be fired.

The pieces are delicate and every attempt is made to protect them during the firing process. Even the tiniest of air bubbles left in the clay can cause the prepared piece to crack in the 2000 degree heat of the kiln. After firing, the clay pieces will be left in the kiln to cool down slowly before being removed.

Logan Clay Products Company had its beginnings way back in 1876, until fire destroyed the plant in 1920. In 1921, the plant was rebuilt on the original site in Logan, Ohio. In 1957, all kilns were converted from coal fired to natural gas, resulting in stronger pipe bodies, thus allowing Logan Clay to stop glazing their pipe products.

In 1958, Logan Clay built a 360 foot tunnel kiln where pipe moved through the kiln on rail cars with a gradually rising temperature, from 300 deg. F to 1550 deg. F, and then rapidly heated to 2000 deg. F. Wow! Now, that’s hot. In 1987, the tunnel kiln was computerized.

In 1979, Richard H. “Dick” Holl was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer. Dick, a beloved member of the Logan community passed away on October 13, 2005. Today, Dick’s support and love of community lives on through the Holl Foundation with Mary Holl, Dick’s widow, serving as a Board Member.

The support of artisans who gather in the Logan Clay art loft, in turn, give back to the community through donations of their clay art to charitable auctions such as Logan In Bloom, Hocking Valley Community Hospital, Washboard Festival, Hocking County Historical Society, and the Bowen House. As a side note, the Logan community was recognized twice in the National America In Bloom competition for community involvement.

Next month’s Amazing Women of Hocking Hills will feature Bobbi Bishop. Bobbi and her husband, Bruce, are the organizers of Lilyfest. Although Bruce passed away in 2002, his passion for art and nature is reflected in Bobbi’s continuation of the annual art and garden event in Hocking County.

During the weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) July 11th, 12th, and 13th, 2014, come to Lilyfest and visit Jenny Beard’s exhibit of clay garden art available for purchase. There are over eighty other artisan vendors on the beautiful Lilyfest grounds. Take a leisurely walk through the many gardens maintained by volunteers and leave the hustle and bustle of the outside world behind. 

I hope you enjoyed today’s Amazing Woman, Jenny Beard. I am so proud and honored to call her my friend. 

Sherry Hartzler is the author of Three Moons Over Sedona, Island Passage and Chasing Joe, all available on

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