Clay Guild in Western North Carolina

Tonight is the second meeting of the up-and-coming clay guild for Western North Carolina (WNC) -West of Asheville including Haywood, Jackson, Swain, Macon, Clay and Cherokee counties. We will meet at 6:30 PM at Southwestern Community College in Bryson City. Of course it will be a Pot Luck and full of fabulous food. We will all bring our place settings to show off our pottery and keep the throw-aways to a minimum.

We are hoping to organize enough interested folk and raise some money to help market the area as a place to visit and purchase fabulous clay art and/or a place to learn how to play with clay. Handmade in America calls this a ‘Creative Economy’ and could help boost WNC’s economy! Judi Jetson, Director of Creative Economies for Handmade states, “Current research says the way to win in rural economic development is with a 3-way combination of outdoor amenities, creative professionals and entrepreneurship. This Rural Growth Trifecta is the key to our economic recovery.”

Hank Shuler, one of the organizers of this guild, wrote a wonderful press release for this meeting that points out within the 6 counties West of Asheville there are 5 established schools for learning to make pottery, along with a number of established clay artists and up-and-coming artists that are studying at these 5 institutions: John C. Campbell Folk School, Southwestern Community College’s Heritage Arts Program, Haywood Community College’s Professional Crafts, Western Carolina University, and the Bascom.

I would love for this group to market through an annual Drive-About where studios are open to the public for a weekend festival of buying and browsing the wonderful clay art around the area. I imagine it would be similar to the Minnesota Pottery Studio Sale and Tour in the Upper St. Croix River area or the Art of the Pot in Austin, Texas, or any number of similar tours.

Another group of clay folks that I envy and would love for our group to emulate is the NC Clay Club. These folks meet monthly at various members’ studios and talk clay, eat together, host workshops, etc. They even have a blog that keeps all members and the public informed of the wonderful things going on. This club is located in and around the Asheville-Penland area, an incredibly clay-art dense geographic area. I hope our far western NC area can grow to be similar to this clay-collector destination!

Speaking of workshops….. though we haven’t officially established this guild (until tonight!) we have had opportunities to raise money to bring visiting artists to Southwestern Community College. The SCC students have participated in various art sales, including the WNC Pottery Festival and our own Mountain Shapes and Colors show; and while selling their wares, they have donated a percentage of sales to the ‘guild’. We hope to continue this on a larger scale in order to bring clay artists from around the country to offer workshops in our area. This small coffer allowed us to host Rob Withrow and Ted Cooley last week during the Face Jug workshop.

So come out and support this new clay guild! Help spread the word that there is FABULOUS CLAY ART WEST OF ASHEVILLE!!!!

If you have any thoughts on the guild – whether it be ideas for it or people to contact, etc., please leave a comment!