Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Pottery Doctor Is In

AKA: See the T-shirt in photo number 4.

“What’s the first thing I should do? Enjoy the scenery? Okay, I’ll check that off my list,” I joked to Joe just few miles out of our driveway, heading south on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We were on our way to Asheville to visit Josh for the weekend, to help put a roof over the pottery kiln he’s building. I was having a hard time shifting gears from the flurry of last minute travel preparations to beginning the actual three-hour drive to North Carolina. Mabry Mill, just ten miles up the road from our house and the most photographed scenic site in Southwest Virginia, got my attention. There were two white ducks looking perfectly placed, gliding across the pond in front of the old grain mill when we rode by.

I tried to deny that I wanted to stop and get a better look when Joe asked if we should pull over, thinking we shouldn’t waylay our trip. But Joe knew better and I was glad he did. After a fellow traveler in leather biker pants (a confessed workaholic who had strict orders from his doctor to stop and smell the rhododendrons) offered to snap our picture in front of the picturesque scene, I took a deep breath, let go of the life details we were leaving behind, and felt like we were on vacation.

When we arrived at Josh’s two acre property in the town of Marshall, he was on his hands and knees working at the kiln site. Using white sand to level out the bricks he was laying in a measured section of flooring, he explained that he was doing what he knew how to do best.

Raising the roof was something he would be learning as it went up, with the help of Joe, a one time timber framer, his master carpenter friends from his Warren Wilson College days, Jody and Gabe, and fellow potters, Sean and Matt.

I couldn’t believe how much the three-level kiln site looked like a Mayan ruin or an archeological dig. Josh had dug out the site, including a dirt stairway, from the side of a hill with a tractor. It was loosely framed with salvaged boards from the “Tearing Down the House Party,” held up by locust posts that were harvested off the land. A tarp spread across the top where a roof would hopefully soon be.

The Zuma Café in downtown Marshall, five minutes from Josh’s property, featured turkey wrap sandwiches, a wireless internet connection, and one of Josh’s Community Bricks displayed on a shelf behind the counter. Josh and Joe ate while I checked my emails and blog comments and sipped on some Earl Grey tea. I couldn’t see buying lunch when we had a camper fridge full of food, venison sausage, lettuce and other greens from the garden.

Our waitress let me go behind the counter to snap a photo of the brick. I later learned, from looking at Josh’s latest collage journal, some more places where his Community Bricks are building community, brick by brick: Besides locations up and down the east coast, there are bricks in California, Arizona, Hawaii, and Alaska; as well as England, Ireland, and Japan. The bricks have traveled on planes and been sent by mail. I didn’t expect to see one at the Zuma Café. I’m going to have to start paying more attention because I’m sure there are more than a few that have found homes in the Asheville area.

~ Originally posted on on June 3, 2007.

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