For this month's Clay Buddies installment: the man who started it all. Many of you are lucky enough to know him personally; some of you have been admiring or collecting his work since his earlier (yet not so far away) wood-fired days; others of you might just know the beloved mug you use for your morning coffee was made at an Asheville pottery workshop started by "a guy who's related to Matisse."
Below, Alex shares with us five special objects that speak to a quieter, more contemplative inner world at a time when all things East Fork are rapidly shifting, expanding, and evolving.
Tell us about what you do for East Fork.
My official title is CEO - it still seems funny to say. My days involve everything from drawing ceramic forms in CAD, to researching new equipment and processes, to writing investor reports and fundraising decks, to throwing the odd few pieces of pottery that are still on my make list. This week we are in Atlanta scouting new locations for a store and next week I'll be back in Madison County making serving bowls.
More than all the individual things I do, the most rewarding (and challenging) work is helping to solve the larger problems that arise with growth. Each day we find ourselves in new situations that we never dreamed of.
ALEX'S FIVE THINGS
The Hobbit: My father read the Hobbit to me. It's the first book that I remember and I am counting down the days until I can read it to my own daughters.
A book of matches from a night out with my Uncle Peter: My uncle Peter struggled with the family name his whole life. The last time I saw him before he passed away he took me out for a wild night. We went to the Lido in Paris (which is where the matches came from) and ended up in a lavish booth at the Hotel Concorde Lafayette in Neuy Sur Seine overlooking the Paris skyline. We were quite drunk by the end of the night but I remember when, through tears in crystal clarity, he told me to never let the name get to me - "Don't let it paralyze you as it did to me." I cried while we looked out over the skyline and then decided I wouldn't let it do that. I was 18 years old.
One of the first pottery pieces that Connie made: When Connie moved in we had only been dating for a few months. We struggled for a long time to find her place in the world I was building. At one point we thought it would be easiest if she just learned to make pottery. It seemed like a good idea at the time. After she threw her first piece she asked me how she did, and I responded cruelly: "You'll get better." I could not, in the moment, bring myself to adjust the standard to which I held myself in order to give her a simple compliment.
Fast forward 9 years and Connie is now Chief Creative Officer and it's often her who dismisses my own creative impulses with a cold scowl. It always comes back around.
A Pin: I was given this pin at a pottery show in 2004. I had in been in the state of North Carolina for just a few months and talked my way into a ceramics class at Guilford College. The teacher, Charlie Tefft, encouraged me and a few other students to bring our work to this show and it was the first time I realized that clay was king in North Carolina.
A Magnifying glass: This small magnifying glass was made by a friend of my parents named Milan Fiske. Milan was a professor at MIT but made things out of wood in his spare time. He always asked my father if what he made was art and my father never knew how to answer him. It seemed the more he tried to make "art" the worse it got, but the objects that he made when his concerns were simply function and beauty continue to be some of the most resolved and thoughtful work I have ever seen.