My personal history in the Ceramic Arts goes back to my high school days when I took a class hoping to get some easy credit. It was the proverbial “duck to water” routine and I immediately fell in love with the materials and processes of making pots. I even rewired an electric kiln that had been left on high for an entire weekend. I had no plans to go to college until my graduating semester in 1963. My teacher, Mr. Joseph Corsello, was an incredible teacher who went way beyond the call of duty for his students. He helped me get into Illinois State University where Mr. James Wozniak took over and here I am after 45 years. Both teachers had a passion for teaching and guided students along their own path. I am most grateful to them both.
During my early undergraduate program, I built a salt kiln in my hometown in the summer of 1965, fired it three times blowing everything up except one pot. I returned to Illinois State and finished my undergraduate degree in 1968. I started graduate school and built another salt kiln at ISU, but was drafted before I could fire it. My time at Illinois State University was incredible until I was drafted out of graduate school in the fall of 1968. I entered the Army in February, 1969 and was sent to Ft. Jackson, S.C. near Columbia, S.C. As devastating as that was, it put me in the Southeastern United States and in proximity to the last true American Folk Potters.
I worked myself into Special Services in the Army and taught art during my two years of duty. Mr. Don Clark was my civilian boss and I am incredibly indebted to him for “keeping me at Ft. Jackson” during my two years of duty. He also started taking me around to a few of these old potters and that began my education concerning true American Folk Pottery.
I made pots at Ft. Jackson and fired an electric kiln as well as some raku in a small enameling kiln. I would also take pots to The Columbia Museum of Art where there was a small kiln we salt glazed using a vacuum cleaner reversed and dripped fuel oil in front of it as a burner. Then I built a kiln for a man in town so I could high fire my work. Towards the end of my army time, I rented a small cottage in the country near Lexington, S.C. so I could build a salt glazing kiln while I waited for dismissal from the Army and my move to Clemson University. I made single fired salt glazed stoneware there with some color testing I wanted to take further once at Clemson. I had been asked by Dean Harlan McClure to establish a Ceramic Art program within the College of Architecture long before getting out of the army. I began teaching there in the fall of 1971, got the department started, and built a gas fired glaze kiln for them behind what was called “The Wilson House”. When time permitted, I built a small salt glaze research kiln for me from the salvaged brick I had moved from Lexington, S.C. That is where my very first “Copper Red Vapor Glaze” was done on salt glazed porcelain.
After the first year of teaching I bought property near Liberty, S.C. with my wife Carrie Gordon, established another studio in an old barn, and built a large salt glaze research kiln there with a grant from the South Carolina Arts Commission. That is where I pursued the “Copper Red Vapor Glaze” for some years and by 1976 I was very restless and resigned from Clemson as a tenured assistant professor so I could devote all my time and energy to my work. Also at that time I stopped salt glazing and went to glazed porcelain fired in the old salt kiln. I left South Carolina in 1979 and moved to Lake Mary, Florida where I built my first gas fired car kiln from whatever was left over from the outside walls of the salt kiln from Liberty, plus some new brick. I worked in Lake Mary for three years and moved to Akron, Ohio in 1982 where I had a Medina, Ohio address. I built a new car kiln there after all those years of rubble kilns and after three years had to tear it down and put my life into storage in 1985.
In the winter and spring of 1986, I was a Visiting Artist at Illinois State University while my life was in storage back in Akron. In August of that year I bought property on Peachblow Road in Delaware County, Ohio. I moved everything to Peachblow, rebuilt the Akron car kiln and along with all my other equipment, established Peachblow Pottery in the country near Delaware, Ohio. Later the address was changed to Lewis Center, Ohio. For 18 years we worked on improving the property, the studio, and establishing the business for Peachblow Pottery.
In August of 2005 I again bought land near Mars Hill, N.C. and established a pottery, this being my fifth studio. I have established a studio for me to make my porcelain and also to teach my knowledge and philosophy to younger pottery enthusiasts. I moved to North Carolina because it is without doubt, “The Potter’s State”. I am 20 to 30 minutes from anywhere in Asheville and only 40 minutes from the world famous Penland School of Crafts. Another seed is planted and with time and nurturing, it will grow.