Monday, November 28, 2011

A potter perhaps?

Face jug by Luke Heafner in downtown Lincolnton, North Carolina
In 2008, I did a series for the newspaper I was working for on Catawba Valley potters. Now, I'm doing a big web-based project on Catawba Valley potters (and using my old articles as references, which seems kind of obnoxious, but very handy), and I can't help but notice all the Catawba Valley potters are men.

Now, this makes sense in that making pottery in the Catawba Valley tradition is a terribly manly thing to do. These potters make pottery the way people did in the 1800s. As in: Dig your own clay, grind it up using a mule (okay, maybe not everyone is still using mules), make a glass/ash glaze, turn it on a foot-powered wheel, throw it in the groundhog kiln you built yourself and then fire it up to 2,000 degrees.

So I've been writing about all these rugged, clay-digging dudes and the crazy pieces they are producing, and I thought to myself "Why don't I become a Catawba Valley potter?" And then I thought "Because I don't like digging clay or building kilns or creating giant 2,000-degree fires." And then I thought "But we need a woman to do this! I'd be filling a niche! And I could totally market the hell out of myself. And I'm creative even if I'm not very crafty."

If I'm being honest with myself, I have to accept being a Catawba Valley potter is probably not going to happen. It's not because a woman can't do it. It's because this woman doesn't really feel like doing it. That said, there has to be someone out there just itching to get started. Some woman. All the Catawba Valley potters I've met have been fabulous (and by fabulous I mean often gruff and grouchy and yet charming in their gruff grouchiness). They're doing their part, holding down the tradition but breaking the rules too (a gas mask face jug, Michael Ball? Terribly interesting.) I just hope the next time I do some giant project related to Catawba Valley pottery (because I feel the third time will be the charm) there is a woman to write about along with all these manly man.

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