Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Sixteen Hands Sneak Preview Story

1. I'm working on a story about Floyd's 16 Hands Studio Tour for the next issue of The Compass, a local visitor's guide. This year was the 10th anniversary of the event and my Asheville potter son Josh was a visiting guest artist. It was an honor for him to be invited to participate and a homecoming too, since he grew up here in Floyd. He knows most of the Sixteen Hand members and has great respect for them.

2. Josh is the founder of Asheville's Clayspace Coop and the builder of the Community Temple, a three tiered woodfiring kiln on his property in Marshall, North Carolina. His artist statement for the 16 Hands show reads: I was raised in Floyd County, Virginia, and the experience of growing up in this close- knit community of farmers and artisans has been the single greatest influence of my life. My inclusion in the 16 hands fall studio tour is a homecoming for me. I am excited by the opportunity to share my growth as an artist since leaving home with the community that nurtured my creative spirit for so many years.

3. At one time there really were sixteen hands, those of the eight members. Some members moved away and twelve hands remain, working together to host the bi-yearly self-guided studio tour. Floyd members are Rick Hensley and Donna Polseno, Ellen Shankin and Brad Warstler, and Silvie Granatelli; all potters except Brad who is a woodworker. Stacy Snyder, another set of hands from Blacksburg, is a potter. Each studio site hosts a visiting guest artist. Josh was hosted at Rick and Donna's and showed his work beside Donna's (above), which made for some exciting contrasts.

4. It's hard to believe that this was my first year to take the tour, although I've been familiar with each Floyd member's work and know them and their children as part of the Floyd community. I'm enough of a Floyd Countian that I didn't need to use the fold-out brochure map provided, but I did need, in some cases, to ask about directions, and I was happy to see that the route was marked with 16 Hands arrow signs. As a tour-goer, I enjoyed the hot herb tea and cookie conversations about politics, how each member found Floyd, and catching up on family news as much as I enjoyed perusing the showrooms of masterful functional and sculpture ceramics, along with Brad's fine woodworking (all of which I hope to write more about in The Compass story.)

5. The Sixteen Hands artists are renowned and together they represent volumes of credentials, honors, and teaching experience, which can be reviewed on their webpage HERE. Over the years their hard work has paid off and their country studios have become destinations. When they open to the public twice a year, collectors and art lovers take advantage of it. Except for Sunday when the county was hit with sleet and ice, this year's tour was well attended.

6. I never got to talk to Rick but did spend some time getting lost in the mandala patterns of his porcelain bowls and platters. I caught a glimpse of him once in his back yard with chimney sweep tool in his hand. The chimney had backed up and was forcing smoke into the house, his apprentice's girlfriend told me. Such is the character of a country Studio Art Tour, I thought.

7. Kent McGlaughlin (on the left), a North Carolinian guest potter at Silvie's place, thought I wasn't tall enough to be Josh's mother. Kent was teaching at Penland School of Crafts the same time Josh was in May. He recalled one evening when an unanswered question prompted Josh to pick up the phone, saying "My mother might know the answer." None of us could remember what the question or answer was but we all agreed I was Josh's Millionaire life-line that night. It was fun to meet Kent (who Josh calls Chet) in person.

8. Between Asheville's recent River Arts District Studio Tour and the Sixteen Hands show, Josh has had a great month, and he still has his Clayspace Annual Holiday Show coming up. He says, "It isn't about selling objects. People want an experience ... and meaning." Most who buy Josh's pots make a connection with him personally. When they learn that he works with locally dug wild clay and that his pottery is woodfired in a hand built kiln, most are able to feel the relationship between that and the finished product, pots that look born from the ground, guided by hand and transformed by the elements.

9. And this is the moral of the story and what it's all about in the end: Joe eating lunch in our kitchen using one of Josh's new pasta bowls.

Photos and post note: 1. Josh in front of Rick and Donna's studio. 2. Josh's new work. 3. Donna's work. 4. Sylvie's studio. She's in the center. 5. Ellen's showroom. 6. Rick's showroom. 7. Kent at Sylvie's. 8. Tour sign. 9. Joe's lunch.

~ Originally posted on Loose Leaf Notes on December 2, 2008.

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