After leaving college I spent five years "living the life" in Virginia Beach, VA. Being a beach bum was a great adventure, until it wasn't. Work, unfulfilling work at that, got in the way. My salvation came one Christmas when my mom and dad gave me a handmade teapot made by Frank McNutt, a potter who was living and working in Myrtle Beach, SC at the time. It was an especially cold winter that year, and sitting around with my housemate and friends, in front of the fireplace, savoring tea steeped and served in that teapot, was life changing. I began to understand how the use of the handmade could be trans-formative.
Not long after, I wandered into the 16th Street Art Gallery where handbuilt sculptures and planters by Fran Mercer were on display. The gallery owner told me Fran was teaching an intro class two weeks later, and I signed up. The class was taught at the Virginia Beach Arts Center, a one-story old house used by the USO much of the year, and our studio was a room with a plywood topped air hockey table. I attended class twice a week for six weeks, signed up for another six week session, and I was hooked. I had found my calling.
That first class was in January of 1976, and I have been making clay objects ever since. By July of 1978 I opened my first retail shop and studio on Lake Gaston in Eastern North Carolina. Initially I lived in a tent and made pots in an old tobacco warehouse, then rented or owned three more properties prior to moving to Seagrove in 1990, where I still reside.
Recently I have given much thought to the process that began with that Frank McNutt teapot. The teapot was and is a beautiful object, made by an exceptional craftsman, a well-chosen gift of love from my mom and dad, that in its use created actions, memories and life-long bonds, and prompted my desire to make similar objects that would impact others in similar ways.
Thanks mom and dad. Thanks Frank McNutt.