Kyle Crowder was busy scraping wadding off the kiln floor on a 94º Wednesday afternoon when I pulled him away from his labor of love to chat about where he comes from, how he found us, and the bewildering mix of excitement and frustration that he’s experienced during his first week as East Fork’s newest apprentice.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Kyle moved to Western North Carolina to attend Warren Wilson College because, as he says, “I didn’t want to go to college so I chose a college that was least like college" (a sentiment I've heard echoed by many a bright WWC grad). Though he intended to study science, Kyle—and his mom—was surprised to find himself drawn to a major in Art. But he quickly found that, “There’s a lot of science involved in ceramics”. Drawn especially to glaze chemistry, he was interested in finding some rhyme and reason in processes that often feel like guess work.
Like so many other students we’ve encountered, Kyle speaks with great reverence for Warren Wilson ceramics instructor, Leah Leitson, who encouraged him to take ceramics each semester and suggested that he apply for the apprenticeship position at East Fork this past Spring. Though Kyle had stumbled upon our blog last summer and had seen that East Fork accepted apprentices, prior to Leah's nudge, the thought of apprenticing for a pottery was a far-off distant fantasy, hardly real enough to register as an actual possibility.
After a couple of weeks, it all still feels a bit foreign. “I’m re-learning everything, because it’s such a different mode of throwing.” He’s still getting used to throwing without a sponge, using East Fork’s preferred rudimentary ribs and trimming tools, and making large runs of the same form. Having to develop the focus and stamina to make upward of fifty of the same cup or bowl at a time is a common challenge for the new apprentice transitioning from school to a production workshop. As Kyle notes, "the most I've ever had to throw was five similar pots". And though working in this new manner can be humbling - and incredibly frustrating - Kyle says that he's just as excited as he is nervous. The culture of apprenticeship shared by East Fork and our own teachers can indeed be intimidating, requiring the apprentice to empty the contents of their toolbox and cast a beginner's eye on tasks that may have previously seemed rote. Kyle seems to be learning this lesson quickly: "I brought a whole box of tools along with me and I haven’t used a single one.”
Welcome to the family, Kyle. We're really glad to have you here and we know you're going to be great.