Burley Clay Products is the only company in the United States that still makes ceramic birdbaths and their passion is pottery. However, they do other things that may surprise you.
Burley Clay began in 1923 on Maysville Pike in Zanesville when the Zane brothers and Dr. Samuel Burley became interested in the clay industry. In 1984 the business was sold to Steven McCann, who began looking for a larger facility when in 1998 McCoy Pottery closed, leaving everything inside the factory as it was. the end of the work that day.
After extensive cleaning and removal of items, Burley Clay opened its factory in the former McCoy Pottery factory in Roseville in 2000, according to Vice President Rick Emmert.
Emmert began his career at Burley Clay in 1987 as an engineer. His grandfather owned a ceramics factory in the area and Emmert often went to work with him. This led him to earn a degree in ceramic engineering from The Ohio State University.
“I think it’s cool to make things out of clay,” Emmert said.
On her office wall, a surplus World War I propeller reminds her of the early days of Burley Clay when she was at the Maysville Pike facility. A dozen of these propellers worked overnight to gradually dry out the clay.
The item made by his grandfather is still made in Burley Clay today. It’s a ceramic piece, called a saddle, that’s used in industrial towers to help stop pollution. These are mechanically manufactured today in the thousands and they have orders that carry them through January.
A fingerprint reader has become important for use at foreign airports. Another item used in airports around the world is an earplug that regulates air pressure during flight. Burley Clay manufactures the ceramic piece while another company completes the rubber addition. They have thousands of molds they work with.
One machine, an Allied model, dating from the time of McCoy Pottery, is still in use. It is a round kiln that operates 24/7 on a continuous path of firing pottery. It is known as the Cadillac of ovens and produces around 5,000 pieces per week.
A clay field about a mile from the facility provides the fireclay they need. When mined, the clay looks like very hard rocks. Then it is mixed in a liquid so that they have a clay plate.
About 70 people run the factory today. The family tradition plays a big role in the success of the company. Birdbaths and planters are still all handcrafted. Emmert admitted, “We still like to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Today, you can buy things from the Burley Clay store or any of the stores they stock. Their products are sold throughout the country, mainly in family stores or nurseries. Items can also be ordered from their website. They ship to about 40 states, most of them being in the northeast.
Burley Clay is well known in the area for its community involvement. Many festivities will find a Burley Clay birdbath or planter as part of the raffles or prizes.
This year, the 56th Crooksville-Roseville Pottery Show will be held at Roseville Village Park outside the offices of Burley Clay from July 14-16. It will also include pottery exhibits, a pottery pitch, a beer garden and helicopter rides weather permitting.
Next year, Burley Clay will celebrate its 100th anniversary.