The North Carolina
It’s no accident that
The area’s pottery tradition however, dates back to the 1700s when many English and German potters were drawn to the region because of the quality of the clay, both the red clay that lies near the surface of the ground, which they used for earthenware pottery, and the gray clay found deep in creek beds, ideal for making sturdier stoneware.
The program has changed somewhat over the last 30 years; however, the current instructor, Mike Ferree, continues to bring to his classes the time-honored techniques of classic potters.
Ferree’s students range from seasoned potters who come back to school explore their special interests, to younger students who are either curious about the craft or want to pursue a four-year degree in a fine arts curriculum. Ferree’s mettle is tested by the younger students who want to learn new ways to pursue an old craft.
“My younger students want to see results ‘now.’ I keep telling them it takes time to learn the techniques they will need to be good potters,” Ferree says. He has learned to be flexible and help them come up with ways to increase their production while staying true to the basics.
For example, when students get frustrated and need a break from the pottery wheel, which is admittedly one of the hardest potter’s skills to master, Ferree allows them to hand-build an item or two. They still have to decorate, glaze and fire the pieces, all of which are parts of the process.
While Ferree teaches students the important elements of form and design, the curriculum emphasizes production pottery making. Graduates from the program learn that making pottery for a living includes being able to create many pieces in a fairly short period of time on a regular basis. They also learn that producing pottery is not the only skill required to make a living as a professional potter.
For this reason, the curriculum for the associate degree program in Professional Crafts: Clay includes a course in entrepreneurship. The hands-on course takes students through the process of writing a viable business plan. After examining their market, the cost of start-up, and the time involved in operating a business, students can use the experience to help them decide whether or not they are cut out for self-employment.
Graduates from the program do not all necessarily want to start their own businesses. Some may go on to apprentice for professional potters, others may continue their education and use their skills to become occupational or recreational therapists or teachers.
Whatever their goal may be, students continue to come to