Potter takes cue from nature and pace Downeast

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When April Adams was a little girl, she relished her summer visits with her paternal grandmother, Vina, in the Penobscot County town of Enfield.

The pair would walk among her grandparents’ fields, picking strawberries. “Nana,” as Adams calls her, taught her how to identify and appreciate many wild, low-growing flowers such as lady slippers and trillium.

“Just that time in nature — the smells and the warmth — those times are irreplaceable,” Adams said. “That’s what I remember most about her.”

Originally from Bangor, Adams owns Columbia Falls Pottery in the Washington County town by that name. The potter and painter also has a store in the county seat of Machias. From her studio in Columbia Falls, Adams and her partner Dana McEacharn throw, glaze and hand-brush white earthenware pottery in various forms ranging from wildflower-inspired tiles including violets and columbine to ceramic wall tide clocks depicting elements from the coastal Maine landscape such as the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.

Those walks with Nana, and the “real joy” Adams found in nature, not only serve as the main inspiration for her work, but also allow her to personally connect with customers.

“I do a lady slipper pattern, and I’ve had people just really moved, and they’ll tell me about their grandmother, and being a little child and being taught about these flowers and how special they were,” Adams explained. “Those kinds of associations are very dear to me.”

Adams creates all the wheel-thrown pieces in the store — basically anything round — as well as all the painted designs, while McEacharn forms the slab-built pieces, such as the popular tiles.

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Adams studied painting and ceramics at the Portland School of Art. After graduation, she wasted no time pursuing her art, opening a studio in the York County town of Limington. She stayed there for 18 years before moving to Columbia Falls location, where her enterprise is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Her work is Maine-centric. Pieces that don’t display Maine flowers usually depict specific harbors or other nautical scenes and marine elements.

McEacharn also sculpts. Like Adams’ designs, his work is inspired by his coastal Maine hometown.

His cast-resin clocks depict lighthouses and fishing boats, and his bronze- and copper-finished, relief portraits capture sardine cannery packers, blueberry pickers, clam diggers and other traditional working Maine people.

For Adams, her business is not just a way to make a living — it’s a path to true fulfillment.

“It isn’t that I want to get really big and sell a million dollars worth of pots every year,” Adams said. “That’s not the business model. It’s a lifestyle — the freedom and the creativity— that allows a satisfying life.”

“What we want to be able to do is live a creative life, to use our talents to be involved with people in the community, and to always have that,” Adams said. “I mean, what else is there in life?”

Columbia Falls Pottery

Where: 150 Main St., Columbia Falls

Hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday

Machias store: 4 Main St.

Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Contact: 255-2716, www.columbiafallspottery.com

Laura Cole is a summer 2015 intern for the Ellsworth American, writing primarily for Out and About, the paper’s guide to Downeast Maine. She was born and raised in St. Louis and studies journalism and political science at the University of Missouri.