Visit to Mark Hewitt's Pottery, North Carolina

The night after we stopped at Cave Creek Pottery (covered in my last post), we trundled along the back roads of North Carolina to Mark Hewitt's pottery in Pittsboro. Patti gave us a loaf of her excellent homemade bread to take along. We all met together in Italy; Doug was part of the group taking Mark's class at La Meridiana.

Watching Mark throwing a 5 foot tall flower pot and hat stand in Italy was the first time I have ever seen pots thrown on this scale. I had seen videos of different techniques, such as Lady Kwali at the Abuja Pottery, but never in person. Lady Kwali comes to mind because she trained with Michael Cardew just as Mark Hewitt did. In person it was amazing, he built the pot up with such ease. Spending time with him and seeing his skills made me realise I had to visit Mark's pottery at some point. Mark comes from Stoke-on-Trent; his family were behind the bone China manufacturers, Spode. But instead of following his family into industrial ceramic production he forked out on his own, into the studio pottery tradition. After apprenticing for three years with Michael Cardew he also apprenticed with Todd Piker in Connecticut before settling in Pittsborough (in 1983) to build up his own studio.

When we arrived, Mark was out at a meeting at the North Carolina Pottery Center. Carol, his wife (who I also met in Italy and who is very involved with managing the pottery) brought us inside and dished up a cheese platter with thick slices of Patti's bread and a selection of preserves to keep the wolf from the door. Jon, Mark's newest apprentice, took us on a brief tour of the place before we headed out for some local beef burgers at a pub nearby. Carol is big on locally produced food and locally sourced funds, and recently wrote this great book.

We must be at the right place.
The next morning we got to have a proper look around. The kiln had just been fired and sat clammed up, still warm after the 90th firing. Mark stamps the bottom of each pot with the number of the firing; when you walk around and pick up a mug from firing 3, he can tell you when it was and about the intricacies of the firing. It also encourages collectors to get a piece from every firing. The workshop has a dirt floor, which is now all knobbly and cobbled through years of heavy use. It feels terribly authentic. The space was clean, ready for the kiln opening in a few days, so there were no pots out drying but the air was thick with the weight of their missing forms. The grounds around the pottery are beautiful, with a pond and a new apple orchard recently planted by Carol. A shed has been converted into a gallery for most of the pots, whilst the really large ones sit outside on pedestals.

Lauren and I helped re-price some of the pots in the gallery as a group of ladies were stopping by that afternoon, and then I got involved with Adrian and Jon mixing clay. It was hot dusty work which abruptly ended when the belt came apart at the stapled seam. Mark and I headed to a nearby town to get a new attachment, chatting about all sorts on the way, from his apprenticeship with Cardew to the potential for me becoming his next apprentice. It would be a great experience, I think. Adrian, who has been apprenticing there a while, is making sweet pots. Plus the area around the pottery is stunning. But enough words, now for some pictures.

The front of their house
I love the surface of this pot.

Ooooh look at those drips.

You could fit a whole lot of honey in that pot
One of the Hewitt cats

Close up.

Looking in on the kiln shed
The kiln-it is fairly massive
Side door of the kiln, clammed up.
Shed/gallery on the left, pedestals awaiting new pots in the middle.

Crazy shapes

Apprentices pots lined up
Inside the shed/gallery

Mark with his current apprentices Adrian (left) and Jon (right), fixing the belt.

It is a great place full of magnificent pots (I didn't take any pics of the ones inside but there were countless beauties) and I can't wait to return sometime soon, perhaps for a kiln firing.

My next post will be about some of the pots I have been making here in New York!