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To be a potter, one must love to be messy, patient, and understand you will have a huge box of “attempts” to remind you on a regular basis you are not perfect. A simple bowl begins with throwing about 1 ½ pounds of clay onto the wheel. The clay is manipulated into the right shape with walls consistent throughout. Many times before removing the bowl, it is decorated using a liquid clay called slip. After thrown, the piece has to dry to an almost leather hard state. This can take anywhere from a day to a week depending on the piece and the weather. Once leather hard, the pot is trimmed and placed on a shelf to completely dry. At this point many potters will bisque fire their pieces. However, some potters will skip this and glaze their pots and perform a glaze fire. I prefer the latter which is called a one-fire process. Sometimes pots can be completed in 10 days, many however take several weeks. Wood fired pieces can take several months.
My glazes are sprayed on in as many as seven layers using gravity-fed automotive spray guns. The glaze colors selected are influenced by many of the panoramic views found in Alleghany County. Tones of reds, greens, and blues reflect the regions surrounding my studio including the wilderness making up Rich Hole and Rough Mountain and the Cowpasture River dividing these two mountainous ranges. Due to the application process and the interaction of the glazes, each piece is unique. In addition, the type of kiln used in the firing will affect the outcome. Most of my pieces are fired in an electric kiln to cone ^7 (2264 degrees Fahrenheit). When the opportunity arises, I bunk in with my pottery mentor, Lee Taylor, and wood fire pieces in his kiln.
Compared to many of my contemporaries, I am a fairly new potter. As a freshman in college in 1979, I studied pottery with Jim Hanger in Staunton, Virginia. From his tutorage, I learned about glaze mixing and throwing clay on a kick wheel made from a millstone. I stepped away from pottery and did not pick it up again until 2012 when I moved to Clifton Forge with my soon to be husband Rob, a native of Allegheny County. I was new to the area and saw a class was offered at Clifton Forge School of the Arts. The instructor, Lee Taylor (a well-known potter in Lexington, Virginia.), is known for working with local clays and his wood-fired pottery. I took both of his classes and have been potting since. I have attended several intense workshops with Steven Hill. As a result of Steven’s workshops I have adopted the one-firing technique of firing my pottery, slip decorating, and also how to select and spray multiple glazes to produce a variety of effects. Recently Josh Manning from Floyd County spent a weekend at CFSOTA providing his own unique methodologies in pottery throwing. While salt firing is still on the backburner for another time, his technique of throwing bulbous forms and lids has taken some of my pots down a new road (and yes, added much in the way of “attempts” to my huge box).