My first experience using clay was the making of Black Power Fists out of raw clay hand dug from Clear Creek stream behind my house. Yes, I went to high school in the sixties, leaned far left politically, still do, and immediately connected art and sculpture with the power to make statements about what was happening in the world. But I was a writer, a poet in fact, and continued my education in Cullowhee, NC with this goal in mind until I encountered Dr. Oliver in a required art appreciation class at Western. Due to his influence I took several more art classes and discovered the underlying poetry behind paintings, sculpture, and pottery.
I graduated from Western Carolina in 1975 with a BFA degree and a concentration in ceramics and printmaking. I moved to Auburn and enrolled in BS in Art Education courses while also working in construction. During the day I tied steel for Walter Rice Construction and during the evenings I took courses in education. I graduated from Auburn University in 1976 after a semester of teaching art at Auburn Junior High School with a BS in Art Education.
I moved to Birmingham Alabama, got married, and found jobs working for several advertising companies as a photographer and writer. I was fortunate to learn a great deal about photography from some of the professional companies and advertising agencies that I worked with. I opened my first business, Southern Architectural Photography and developed my business by taking perspective control 35mm slides and 4×5 transparencies for a group of architects who built shopping malls all over the south. I also developed and printed, for the architects, presentation Cibachrome prints in a small darkroom that I installed in a garage. On weekends I honed my photography skills and pretending to be Eliot Porter. I shot tons of 4x5s transparencies of waterfalls and nature in Cheaha State Park.
During a photography trip to Tannehill State Park I learned of a need to develop a craft program for the park and subsequently wrote a grant for the development of a pottery program. I was awarded the grant and built a kiln for the park and began working each weekend as a resident artist who demonstrated the craft to park visitors, including large boy scout councils and school groups including special needs children.
The Tannehill job provided two things that I enjoyed, working as a potter, and teaching to interested children. I begin to develop plans to move back to North Carolina with the idea of opening a pottery shop. In 1980 we moved, bought land in Mitchel County, NC near Penland School of Crafts and began building a house and shop.
"To keep myself sane I create art."
In 1981 we opened Glenlaurel Studio at the top of Crabtree Creek road in a more conventional owner built studio. I created functional salt-glazed and Raku pots, and with technical guidance and advice from North Carolina potter Michel Sherrill built a large gas fired kiln to fire the work. My wife developed a business making glass fused jewelry. I also worked as a photojournalist for Tri-county News in Spruce Pine, writing feature photo stories about interesting local folks. I learned a lot about the area with this experience. The Tri-County Art Council under the direction of Mrs. Larson was a strong supporter of artists and of art in the schools and developed a fantastic program of placing visiting artists in local community schools. Over the years of living in Mitchel County I worked in almost every school for two or more weeks making pottery with all ages of children. During this time I juried successfully into the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild and begin selling in their shops and at the October and spring festivals.
In 1990 I applied for a position as a North Carolina Visiting Artist and at several graduate schools nationwide for a MFA program in ceramics. I was accepted to the visiting artist roster and won placement as a visiting artist at Carteret Community College. Since I had also been accepted as a graduate student at East Carolina University I arranged a schedule that made both tracks possible.
In 1994 I moved to Charlotte, accepted a job at Spaugh School of Math and Science and rebuilt the art program. My students held a successful print exhibit at the Mint Museum of Art in 1996; we sold out to the curators! We won Scholastic Gold Key awards in all categories in 95, 96, and 97. I worked as an adjunct professor at the University of NC Charlotte teaching 2-D, 3-D and ceramics.
In 1997, I accepted a position of ceramics instructor at Gaston College, and also chaired the gallery selection and exhibition committee. I worked adjunct positions, for UNCC and for Gardner-Webb University. My own worked changed to more traditional functional thrown stoneware through the influence of Catawba valley potters especially Kim Ellington. I developed a love of folk art, a tradition that I also explored in graduate school through learning about the Seagrove NC pottery tradition through Ben Owen III. My understanding of the importance of both traditions can be directed attributed to Joan Bird professor of ceramics at Western Carolina University. She took all of her students both to Penland School and to the workshop of Ben Owens Senior (Ben’s Grandfather) while I was an undergraduate.
In 1997 I accepted the position as Assistant Professor of Art at Gardner-Webb University and began writing the curriculum for creating the BFA and BA degrees in Art for the university. Now, twenty years later I am Professor and Chair of the Department of Visual Arts in the School of Performing and Visual Arts at Gardner-Webb University. A great deal of my work energy is extended towards keeping the program functioning and growing.
To keep myself sane I create art. My recent work includes large
terra-cotta sculptures developed during a sabbatical semester that I was awarded fall 2010. I have also recently rebuilt the salt/soda kiln and am investigating paper-clay as a sculptural medium. This work is informed by my traditionally built terra-cotta sculpture and created by long experience on the wheel. The work grows out of my admiration for folk art created within worldwide cultures including our own Appalachian region. The anthromorphic direction is influenced by reading, especially Neil Gaiman and by study of Egyptian, African, Peruvian, and Mimbres art, among others. This circle brings me all the way back to my early investigations explored in my MFA Thesis titled A Narrative Exploration in Painting and Ceramics, so I will leave you with an original poem from that work. The poem is called Foundations and was written as a response to a dig of Cherokee potshards in the mountains of western North Carolina while I was an undergraduate art student.
i remember finding the past.