In October 2013 I was sitting on the front porch of the Moonshine Cabin with Claude and Elaine Graves and I heard the question "have you ever thought about doing pottery?"
Darby and I were in town to visit and play tunes for the weekend during Little Mountain Pottery's 39th annual kiln opening festival. Over the past ten years I never missed an October opening at the Graves' pottery, and the weekend had become a sacred event for me. It was a mixture of wonderful people, lively music, and great food, but there was something more, something indescribable that drew me back year after year like some sort of pilgrimage. Those weekends centered around the unveiling of the Graves' latest work, which Claude would pull one by one from the ancient looking kiln as people, packed elbow to elbow in the back of the studio, would call out "I want that one!" or simply "Claude!" the instant the pot saw sunlight. Old time music swirled through the cracks of the studio's walls as craftsmen (Don the furniture maker, Richard the Luthier, Becky with her felted rugs, Zeke with his gourd banjos) all displayed their work outside the pottery, and children danced in the grass. These weekends always filled me with energy. Despite little to no sleep from playing tunes all night with Zeke and Jacob, I was more alive after a kiln opening at Little Mountain Pottery.
So when the opportunity arose for me to spend time learning from Claude and Elaine it felt like winning the lottery. I immediately signed up for classes in Columbia with Paul Moore at Southern Pottery to begin learning to use the potters' wheel, and started spending as many weekends as possible in Tryon delving into slip techniques and firing kilns under Claude's guidance. I set up a small studio in Columbia and would throw pots and decorate them with slips and sgraffito there and Darby and I would drive them up to Tryon for firing. Some days I would work my restaurant job from 6:30 to 2:30, then immediately head out to the backyard studio and throw pots until evening. I have drawn, painted, and built things my whole life, but never felt as productive and satisfied as I do while making pottery. The process is meditative, fluid, peaceful, and elemental.
Last fall and the beginning of this year has been eventful. I had my first pottery sales at Little Mountain Pottery in October and December, and I left my comfortable job of ten years roasting coffee and working in the kitchen at Immaculate Consumption in Columbia. Darby and I sold my house in Columbia to some good friends, and on January 27th I proposed in an empty house with nothing in it but Darby, a banjo, some tools, and our dog.
We headed up to Tryon at the beginning of this month with our six chickens and our dog Trudy to live in the Graves' Moonshine Cabin while I work in their studio under a loose apprenticeship for this next year. Here we plan on enjoying the change of pace and different lifestyle that comes with moving to the country as we start this new chapter of our life together.
I'm working on firing my first pots of 2015, so stay tuned for updates!