Learning from the masters
Wood kiln firing may have gone out of style in pottery, but three former Lee County High School students and their teacher recently got to experience it live.
Last Saturday, Elijah West, Phillip Morie and Carmen O’Quinn, along with instructor Jody Stouffer, participated in a live wood kiln firing of their work at the home of A.V. Smith, one of the more renowned potters in the state of North Carolina, with two other master potters in attendance.
The products will be on sale this Saturday at A.V. Smith Pottery, located at 599 Pottery Lane off of Buckhorn Road in Broadway.
Stouffer connected with Smith when Smith’s daughter took pottery classes taught by Stouffer at the high school.
“(Smith) has kind of had an interest in our program and has shared advice and glazes and form of throwing,” Stouffer said. “I just thought that this would be a really unique opportunity for our students to come out and learn a little about the traditional ways that pottery was made.”
After creating their pieces with clay from Smith and glazing them, the students and Stouffer met with Smith and master potters Steve Abie of Lenoir and Charlie Lisk of Vale at Smith’s wood kiln Aug. 2. They created a fire with a temperature reaching 2,000 degrees by continually adding wood to a pile, which spurred on flames reaching three feet high from the kiln’s chimney.
“Lee County has such a rich tradition in pottery,” Smith said. “I wanted to provide an opportunity for the pottery students to learn the traditional ways that pottery was made, glazed and fired, as well as offer the experience of working side by side with some of North Carolina’s best master potters who are currently at the top of their craft.”
The firing took place from 11 a.m. to approximately 8:30 p.m.
Morie, a 2014 graduate of Lee County High, took a pottery class during the first semester of his senior year and discovered just how much he loved the art form. The firing was something he wasn’t going to skip.
“I was always in love with the medium [of] clay,” Morie said. “The first time I spun a wheel, it was enthralling, and I wanted to keep getting better. Whenever [Stouffer] told me about [the wood kiln firing], there was no way I was missing this.”
West, a 2013 graduate of Lee County High, has worked the last three years in a pottery shop and was excited about seeing a different side of the art form.
“I’d never seen it done before, and I wanted to come here and help,” West said. “I’ve learned a lot. I think I can use it in the future.”
O’Quinn, a member of the class of 2014 at Lee County High, also relished the experience.
“I love pottery,” she said. “It’s just something I love to do, and I would do anything to do it.”
Stouffer said the ability to educate his former students beyond the classroom was one of the more attractive parts of the firing.
“You have students who could be doing whatever during the summer. Instead, they’re opting to come out here and learn more about the pottery trade,” he said. “It’s really just giving these kids well beyond the classroom experience of pottery, actually getting them in these real pottery shops and learning from these folks that are just at the top of their trade.”
The sale, which will include pieces of pottery bowls, vases, mugs, bird houses and face jugs made by the students and Stouffer, is open to the public and starts at 10 a.m.