Specialized tools and precise designs create the detail that is so intriguing in Potter’s work.

As Potter puts it, he strives for “museum quality” pieces. “I want something that somebody’s going to look at and go ‘Wow! This is cool!’” he says. He fashions trays in four different sizes, from 9” by 12” up to 16” by 20”. Once he gets an idea for an image, Potter will immediately begin sketching out the design and an accompanying border in pencil, oftentimes with the aid of a compass, directly onto the surface of a piece of basswood (“It carves like butter,” he says). During his teaching career Potter taught technical drawing, and the skill certainly comes in handy here. “The layout is extremely important. If the layout’s wrong, the carving’s wrong. It’s got to be done flawlessly,” he explains. “Then I have to mark every area that’s going to get cut out, because if I cut out the wrong area, might as well be firewood,” he says with laugh. After the wood is completely carved with a chip-carving knife (it’s like an X-Acto knife but more curved, like a bird’s beak), Potter then crafts the sides and handles for the tray out of Eastern white pine and glues those pieces on. He uses a wood dye to color the tray (this kind of dye provides a richer color than a standard stain, he notes) and then sprays on a lacquer finish. The underside of the tray is outfitted with a suede covering so it won’t slip and slide.

Potter’s work is available in an array of patterns and colors making for a variety of options when choosing the perfect piece.

Once a tray is finished, “I’ll close my eyes and I’ll feel around it,” Potter says. “Somebody’s going to pick this up, it can’t be rough. I’m making it to be friendly to the hand. It’s got to feel just right.” While Potter’s pieces are designed as serving trays, their craftsmanship inspires other creative uses. “I made my wife a smaller one and she uses it for her jewelry,” Potter notes. “Some people hang them on their walls. It’s cool.”