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Meet the Potters: Kevin Crowe

Pottery on the Hill returns for the 9th year – albeit online for 2020 – and with it dozens of potters who have previously participated in the show return too. In the weeks leading up to the November 13-15 show, we’ll introduce you to some of them in our Meet the Potters series.

We’ll begin with Kevin Crowe, who has been hard at work in his studio at Tye River Pottery in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for over 40 years. We asked Kevin to take a few minutes to answer a few questions.

1. What drew you to be a potter?
A motorcycle wreck in 1973 broke everything. I spent a couple of months in a college ceramics studio, my body in plaster, disinterested. A visiting Japanese potter and a few books hooked me. All the apples lined up and turned my life around.

2. How have things changed since the pandemic outbreak?
How have they not? In early March a year of firings, exhibitions, workshops, conferences and sales evaporated. Our fall firing was postponed and my apprentices retreated while we caught our collective breath and imagined a way forward. I have been loading the large anagama for a firing on an unknown date when the dust settles. The familiar urgency, rhythm and camaraderie of loading has morphed into a reluctant meditation in which, on good days, I think I’m making better decisions. On other days, I’m not.

3. Have current events changed your work?
Black Lives Matter, COVID, the raw, reckless denial of so much of the danger and responsibility of this moment combine to form a door to depression that I struggle to keep at arm’s length. They make me scrutinize my role in society. Does my work matter? Should I have gone to law school? How do I bring diversity into my very white community of makers? I have time to dig deep. I remain convinced of and committed to the belief that beauty heals and is essential to the health and awareness of society – that there is work to do.

4. If you weren’t going to be a potter, what do you think you’d be doing?
As a young guy, I was offered a job as a songwriter in Nashville at the same time we were looking to move to the country and establish a pottery studio. A different decision would have kept me in the music business. I also suspect architecture would have drawn me in eventually.

5. What do you love about Pottery on the Hill?
Dan Finnegan imagined Pottery on the Hill as a gathering of makers from a wide geography of aesthetic backgrounds. Some born in academia, in apprenticeships, some self-taught and some a blend of each. This gathering allows the public an opportunity to experience the elastic language of clay and enough time to chat with the potters; to look behind the curtain. Dan has orchestrated the event with an eye to the needs of both potters and the public. The tree of Pottery on the Hill is rooted in Dan’s years of experience and generosity.

6. What is your favorite piece of pottery that you’ve ever made?
I was commissioned by the newly constructed Emily Couric Center for Clinical Cancer in Charlottesville to make the largest vase I could fit in my kiln to be installed in the Center’s meditation room. The pot would keep company with those undergoing treatment for cancer, along with their friends and family in support. The vase was slow to make – a large thrown base and coil after coil. Between each coil I would consider the role of suffering, the shadow of loss, mortality and tenderness – aware that the vase would bear witness to those balancing fear and hope. I find I am always making that vase.

7. What’s the best thing about being a potter?
Being alive to the possibility of wonder. To rise every day to the possibility that beauty is just within reach and certainly in the next kiln. Or the next. To know that we are a support system for the work of being human. To meet with my wife each afternoon over a pot of tea and be reminded that love really is all you need – along with a ton of fine aged stoneware.

Join Kevin Crowe and 44 other top potters during Pottery on the Hill, November 13-15, 2020. This online show and sale opens at 5 pm on November 13. Learn more at PotteryontheHillDC.org.

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