A Bit About Me
My story with ceramics began in 2014, a time when I had no intention of getting into pottery. I had separated from the Navy a year prior, and wanted to use my GI Bill to go back to college and get a degree.
I picked a small school in Charlottesville, Va. Piedmont Virginia Community College. It was a sister school to UVA, and seemed like a good place to get my feet under me academically, and be able to transition to the larger school later on.
I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to focus on, so I picked a few broad topics to explore, and try to get an idea of where I wanted to go. I needed to fulfill an art credit, and my advisor, Jackie, who worked specifically with veterans recommended ceramics as it seemed to be an outlet a lot of people appreciated. It sounded like fun, and as someone who's always enjoyed working with my hands I thought it was worth a shot.
Even without knowing anything about ceramics, I was impressed with the size and quality of the workspace at this little community college. The studio was large, pretty clean, organized, and ran very well by the professor, Tom Clarkson. Tom was pivotal in not only my introduction to making pots, but cultivating my interest and always pushing me to delve deeper and explore. Like any great teacher Tom didn't just teach me and others the fundamentals of ceramics, but instilled a desire to keep leaning on our own, and to push ourselves towards better technique and better understanding.
I stayed in the ceramics program for another two years at PVCC, continuing to learn and meet others who had a deeper interest than just a school elective. One of these introductions happened in 2016 when Tom asked the class if anyone would like to see a wood firing out in the woods of Nelson County. Myself and another student decided to make the trip and explore this new artistic environment. After an hour drive outside of town, we arrived at our location. The driveway was flanked by massive pots with surfaces I had never seen before, and a wooden sign that read, Tye River Pottery. Walking past the matching wooden home, sheds, and studio we arrived at the kiln shed. I couldn't believe what I saw inside. A massive 32 foot long anagama kiln at full roar. Smoke and flame spewing from spy holes and creeping past bricks and plugs. I stared at this spectacle, not sure what I was even looking at, until Tom got my attention and led me down to the front of the kiln where I met Kevin Crowe. The self taught studio potter received us warmly and happily told us about the firing and gave us a very brief rundown of firing with wood.
Still in a state of disbelief I looked around at the commotion around me. Wood being moved and stacked, the kiln being stoked, meals being laid out, tea being served, a buzz of activity all centered around this massive kiln, and the precious pots inside. I absorbed as much as I could, and we left. I continued to work, even buying my own wheel so I could work at home one the next yea. During this time a close friend had started apprenticing at Tye River Pottery, and I started finding myself out there more and more helping out, and eventually getting on the firing crew. Firing the kiln with the crew was really a transformative experience for me, I had no idea there was this much beyond the wold of college studio ceramics.
As time went on the idea of me apprenticing became more and more real. I eventually asked Kevin about this prospect, and shortly after we agreed to get started with the new cycle. In late 2017 I started my apprenticeship, working three days a week splitting and stacking wood, mixing cays, recycling clay, and making pots. It's hard to explain this time briefly. I ended up spending almost four total years working for Kevin, with a covid pause thrown in there. During this time I started getting into shows, teaching a basic clay class, networking with other potters, and learning the ins and outs of what it takes to be a successful studio potter.
My apprenticeship at Tye River Pottery was a truly transformative experience, and one I will treasure of the rest of my life. Success, failures, lessons learned, and advice ignored. It's only now in retrospect I can see that it all went exactly as it needed to, to bring me where I am now.
After finishing my apprenticeship I moved with my partner to a small town in New Hampshire, where we now live. Since arriving I've been working with small gas kilns that I've refitted from old electric kilns. As much as I love wood firing, an old injury with my back makes it an unrealistic choice for regular firing. But with gas I can still play with reduction, while exploring new surfaces and effects.
My teaching career has gotten off to a great start, teaching at multiple studios and getting to meet more professional and aspiring potters all the time. Teaching has been a part of my life for a long time, running a variety of classes over the years, and being raised by a family of public school teachers instilled in me a love for passing on what I know, and a desire to see other improve. I imagine it's something I will always feel compelled to do. It connects me to my former teachers and mentors, and allows me to bring their wisdom and skill to someone else, while inviting me to reevaluate, and think about what I learned.
Looking forward I am hoping to expand and grow. To continue learning and refining my techniques, firings, and how I communicate these things with others. I've found something in ceramics I never thought to find. An open ended question that is full of new beginnings, and old lessons. Always woking on something new, while relying on knowledge of potters gone for millennia. I love ceramics. I love how it came into my life, and how it has shaped it since. How it always calls me back with more fervor after a mistake or failed experiment. Always asking me what comes next, and driving me toward impermanent solutions that will serve to lead me to the next part of this adventure. I hope you enjoy looking at my work, and that maybe we can meet one day and chat about it.