When my Asheville potter son, Josh, was a baby he had a shirt that said “Good as Gold” on it. At first I thought it could refer to his towhead blonde hair and his baby innocence. I later came to think of it as a premonition for his infectious enthusiasm, his ability to attract good fortune, and his love of making art out of everything around him. I’ve often described him to others as “a bright light” with a “big presence.” But as the mother of an artist, at times I’ve wondered about him burning his love of art at both ends. I’ve also seen his hard work and passion manifest surprising results and support from unlikely places.
The fourth firing of The Community Temple, the 3 chamber kiln that Josh built last summer, wound down last Friday, March 8. It was documented by an award winning photojournalist, Frank Bott. Frank is an Asheville River Arts District neighbor of the Clayspace Co-op studio that Josh founded, but he could be another one of Josh’s fairy godfathers. The Clayspace warehouse loft room where Josh once lived has been renovated into a gallery, a showcase for the finished pottery of all the Co-op members. During a recent studio tour, Frank showed up at the gallery and was drawn by the play of light in the new room, and maybe by the light that emanates from Josh when he puts his whole heart into what he’s doing. Frank took his first batch of pictures. Others would follow.
Frank’s website describes him as a “visual journalist of the human spirit.” His photos of the recent Community Temple firing show that there’s plenty of human and elemental spirit to be witnessed at a woodfiring. The potters look like gritty miners, earth welders, alchemists spinning straw into gold. With faces illuminated by fire, their captured expressions show the struggle of hard work and the wonder of creation. The Gold? It’s the vein of clay harvested from the earth; the inspiration it takes to spin it into form; the fire it takes to harden it; the finished pots; the photos, and the thread of magic that shines through them.
Post notes: The photos above are of the last Clayspace Studio Tour and were taken by Frank Bott. As Josh’s archivist, I received them from him the last time he was home for a visit. You can watch the slide show photos of last week’s woodfiring that Frank has titled “The Struggle” at his website HERE. Currently Josh is co-teaching a class with other potters on “Wild Clay and Precise Fire” at Penland School of Crafts. The whole class is going out to the kiln in Marshall, NC, on Monday to watch the unloading of the firing that Frank documented.
Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on March 12, 2008.