Their passion is pottery! Burley Clay Products is the only company in the United States that still makes ceramic birdbaths, which are their number one selling item. However, they make other things that will surprise you.
Burley Clay began in 1923 on Maysville Pike in Zanesville when brothers, Zane 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 its doors and walked away leaving everything inside the plant as it was when work finished that day.
After much cleaning and removal of items, Burley Clay opened their factory at the old McCoy Pottery plant in Roseville in 2000, according to Vice-President Rick Emmert, who began his Burley Clay career in 1987 as an engineer. Rick had a long-time interest in clay as his grandfather owned a ceramic factory in the area and Rick often went to work with him. That led him to a degree in ceramic engineering from Ohio State University.
Rick continues to have a deep interest in ceramics and enjoys the creative process. “I think it’s cool to make things from clay.” On the wall in his office, a WWI surplus propeller reminds him of the early days of Burley Clay when it was at the Maysville Pike facility. A dozen of these propellers ran during the night to dry the clay gradually.
The item his grandfather made is still being made at Burley Clay today. It is a ceramic piece, called a saddle, that is used in industrial towers to help stop pollution. These are made mechanically today by the thousands and they currently have orders that carry them through next January. A popular item!
A fingerprint pad has become important for use in foreign airports. Another item used at airports around the world is an earplug that regulates air pressure while flying. Burley Clay makes the ceramic part while another company finishes the rubber addition. They have thousands of molds that they work with.
One machine, an Allied model, from McCoy Pottery days is still in use after recent repair. It is a unique round kiln that operates 24/7 on a continuous track firing pottery as it goes. It is known as the “Cadillac of Kilns” and produces about 5000 pieces a week.
They feel fortunate there’s a clay field just about a mile from their current facility. This clay was dropped there long ago by a glacier that moved through this section of Ohio. Vein #3 is about 30′ down and provides the fire clay they need. When mined, the clay looks like very hard rocks before they weather it. Then it is mixed into a liquid so they have a slab of clay to work with.
Approximately 70 people run the plant today. Some retire and miss the action so much they return to work. Many have grown up playing as children in the factories of McCoy or Burley when their parents worked there. Family tradition plays a big role in their success. The birdbaths and planters are still all made by hand. Rick admitted, “We still like to do things the old-fashioned way.”
Today, you can buy things in their store at Burley Clay or at one of the stores they supply. Their products are sold all over the country mostly in mom-and-pop stores or nurseries. Items can also be ordered from their website and shipped directly to your home. They ship to about forty 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 contributed as part of the raffles or prizes. This also provides a great advertisement for their products.
This year the 56th Crooksville-Roseville Pottery Show will be held at the Roseville Village Park in front of the Burley Clay offices on July 14-16, 2022. Not only will you see fine pottery on display, but can enjoy pottery pitch, the beer garden, and helicopter rides (weather permitting). Check out their Facebook page for up-to-date information.
You know their product is a great one since they have been in business since 1923. Next year they will celebrate their 100th anniversary. Creating a place of beauty and peace for your home is their goal. Enhance your garden with products made in this area.