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Meet the Makers at Plays in Mud Pottery

Three-slat walnut rocker; Single-slat chair; Cherry rocking chair. Lyle Wheeler, artist

By Natasha Anderson

Plays in Mud Pottery, in West Asheville, hosts Meet the Makers on Sunday, December 11, from 2–5 p.m. The event is an opportunity for visitors to meet Plays in Mud Pottery owner and ceramic artist Kelsey Schissel and Schissel’s father, master chairmaker and blacksmith Lyle Wheeler. Schissel will demonstrate pottery techniques every half hour and she and Wheeler will discuss their work and answer questions. Hot cocoa, spiced cider and an assortment of cookies will be offered. The first 50 people to attend will receive a complimentary holiday ornament.
“We are members of the Craft Guild of the Southern Highlands and part of the guild’s mission is to educate the community on the importance of craft in our lives,” says Schissel. “To me, this means giving people the opportunity to visit my studio and see part of the process of making a beautiful vase, bowl or mug.”

Kelsey Schissel and Lyle Wheeler

Schissel, who earned a BFA in Ceramics from UNC-Asheville, creates a wide variety of vases, planters, tableware and household items in a blue and green color palette inspired by the colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She often uses small stamped shapes to create patterns on the surface of her work.

“I am influenced by my father’s work, but not in the traditional sense based on form and function,” says Schissel. “His influence is evident in the craftsmanship, the details of the making process left to be seen and intended to impart the idea of hands making the item.”

Wheeler specializes in handmade ladderback chairs featuring traditional tools and styles from the late 1800s in native Appalachian hardwoods. He started making chairs in 1978 when he read about traditional Appalachian chairmaking in the first Foxfire book. He was accepted into the Craft Guild of the Southern Highlands in 1990 and is the current president of the Artistic Blacksmith Association of North Carolina.

Wish Dishes. Kelsey Schissel, artist

“I come from a long line of yeoman farmers; when they weren’t farming to survive they were makers of wagons, farm implements and furniture,” says Wheeler.

The inspiration for Wheeler’s patterns comes from blending traditional Appalachian chairs and timeless Shaker styles created with the construction techniques he employs. He currently makes grand rockers combining native Appalachian hardwoods that naturally compliment and contrast with one another. As a blacksmith, he makes campfire cooking implements, door hardware, candle stands and other household items.

During Meet the Makers, Schissel will demonstrate throwing bowls, vases and hollow forms on the potter’s wheel. Guest potter Tori Motyl will join in for a couple of demonstrations to throw vases and bowls. A kiln opening will also take place, with all fired items available for purchase.

Plays in Mud Pottery is at 735C Haywood Road in West Asheville. To learn more, visit or call 828.225.4063.

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