The challenge is to do the thing you have to do because you're in love with it and can't do anything else. Not because you want to become famous or rich, but because you will be unhappy if you can't do it. - Warren MacKenzie
The following conversation took place over the phone as my son, Josh, was on his way from his home in Asheville, North Carolina, to Athens, Georgia, to visit a friend. It was inspired by the pots he had gifted us with over the holidays and was a continuation of an ongoing dialogue we’re in the midst of.
Me: Do you remember the first pot you ever made?
Josh: It was at Jayn’s studio (Jayn is a family friend and neighbor who lives on a farm community with 4 other families). Her studio was more accessible to kids than other studios in Floyd. I was 7 or 8, and it was a simple coil pot with a mug handle. I remember it wasn’t coming out the way I wanted it to, and I don’t think it ever got fired.
Me: What was your next pottery making experience?
Josh: Coach Pratt’s ceramic’s class in 11th and 12th grade. I threw more clay at the wall than at the wheel. It was a goof-off, mostly because the school didn’t have much to offer in the way of materials, but it was an introduction.
Me: What happened next?
Josh: Working with Tom Phelps was a big eye opener. I, and another friend, hung out with his son because it was the best place in town to party, and we would go into the pottery studio after hours and make stuff. Tom gave us a real opportunity. He said, “It’s cool that you guys want to make stuff, but it could be better.” His son was already making face pots, and Tom told us, “If you make more of these, I could sell them.” We didn’t expect him to sell much of the face pots we made, but when he did, it changed everything. We got serious. Soon after that, word got around and about 8 of us started working in the studio. Tom was a real mentor.
Me: When did you fall in love with pottery?
Josh: It wasn’t until Warren Wilson College. I was studying Environmental Science, and because I worked with Tom already, I got on the work study crew as an assistant in the pottery studio. I took my first ceramics course, learned to throw pots, and eventually became a teacher’s assistant. By my second year, I was waking up in the morning; I’d get my coffee and bagel and be on my way to class but find myself in the pottery studio instead. When I got an F and a D in my academic classes and 3 A’s in my art classes, I knew I had fallen in love with pottery.
Me: What keeps you faithful to it?
Josh: It’s all about the material. That’s where the interest started and that’s where it remains. I love the medium. The way it moves and feels. Clay is amazing and it always surprises me. I continue to do new stuff with the pots I make, and I can’t wait for the next clay making cycle.
Post Notes: Josh’s pottery, pictured above, is available at his Clay Space Studio in Asheville. He can be reached at email@example.com or 1-828-242-2368. This entry was originally posted on looseleafnotes.com on January 9, 2006.