Friday, March 13, 2009

Three Potters Share Their Pots and Stories at NC Potters Conference

Three potters at work

It's been 12 or so years since I last attended the North Carolina Potters Conference held every March in Asheboro for the past 22 years. Today (Friday) was day one of the three-day conference and featured demonstrations from three different potters, Phil Rogers from Wales, Alleghany Meadows from Colorado and Mark Pharis from Wisconsin.

They all three demonstrated their craft at the same time as Mike Durham of the Randolph Arts Guild manipulated three video cameras that tracked their every move on three widescreens, one behind each potter.

I'm glad I went. It was a great venue. I sat in front of Pharis as he explained his process of making a hand-built teapot. Just to his right sat Rogers who threw several different shapes in some specially made stoneware clay from Highwater Clays in Asheville. And to the right of Rogers stood Meadows working in pure white porcelain. Three very different potters working at the same time.

Meadows, to me, seemed to throw more delicately and purposefully, adding subtle lines with different tools as worked on the wheel, altering his shapes by pressing from within and from outside the pot, cutting out and re-attaching the rim of a bowl.

Rogers threw with as much purpose, but with more looseness, adding raised undulating horizontal lines here and there, altering the shape of his cups ever-so-slightly with a rib as the wheel turned at medium speed.

Pharis was very methodical in his processing of the clay slabs, creating templates out of thick paper, cutting out shapes, folding, bending, cutting, re-attaching. He worked on one piece the entire time, careful to show the audience how he creates his work.

After getting used to their microphones and who was going to speak first, they all settled into their work and conversation ebbed and flowed as they explained their work and answered questions.

At one point in the afternoon, Meadows told a story about when he was in college and his class went for doughnuts one late night during an all-night class. They happened to find the worker at Dunkin' Donuts decorating some doughnuts. Well, wouldn't you know it? It wasn't long before that worker was asked to demonstrate his decorating techniques for the class.

This led Pharis to recall taking some college art students to a hog-judging contest at the state fair. He recalled that the art students were paying attention to details that weren't necessarily important to the judges. The students, he said, were paying attention to the outside of the pig, while judges were able to see inside the pig, paying attention to the fat content, cuts of meat, etc.

Then Rogers chimed in with a story about doughnuts. According to Rogers, there was a famous cooking show in Britain featuring television cook Fanny Craddock and her husband Johnny. Seems Johnny liked to drink a bit of wine during the show.

One particular show had Fanny making doughnuts, Rogers explained, and at the end of the show, her husband ended the show by saying "I hope all your doughnuts end up looking like Fanny's."

That got some good laughs.

Anyway, today's day two. I'll be back with more tomorrow.

Phil Rogers

Mark Pharis

Alleghany Meadows

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