By Gina Malone
David Ross was a student at Appalachian State University in 1970 when he first encountered wheel thrown pottery. “The lines, forms, shapes and continuous curves that come alive on wheel thrown pots fascinated me,” he says. He set about then to make pottery his life’s work. More than 40 years later he creates high-fired stoneware and porcelain platters that are both decorative and functional.
Born and raised in Melbourne, FL, it was that inland waterways landscape along with anthropology and archaeology classes that would pave the way for his unique style. “I developed a great love and appreciation for art and nature that can be seen in my pottery today,” he says. His process includes hand- painted brush strokes that express timeless and natural images, many of them depictions of wildlife. “My work is influenced by my past tradition with nature and the experiences of living in a mountain community,” he says.
Fishing, especially offshore, deep-sea fishing, has always been a big part of his life. A favorite memory is talking to his mother about fishing and pottery and her mentioning that she needed some stacking fish bowls. Ross made some and they became popular. “Being a family man with three children and a wife, these fish bowls have paved the way for many prom dresses, uniforms and anniversary presents,” he says.
He moved to Bakersville in 1975, and spent two and a half years developing his skills with studio potter Ron Propst through Penland School of Craft. “During this time I was also influenced by many other local masters of the craft,” he says. In 1977, he opened a clay studio and gallery on Snow Creek. Throughout the years, he has also attended invitational art and craft shows around the country. “They have times and deadlines that you have to have your work done by which keeps me motivated and productive,” he says. “I feel at peace when I am working.”
In the process, it is the glazing that Ross calls the “magic part that makes the images subtle and dream-like” on his pieces. “When it comes out of the kiln and into a customer’s hand and they say, ‘I love it,’ that makes it all worthwhile,” he says. “The first time I saw someone throwing pottery in college, I realized that’s what I wanted to do. I could go to school and have a professional life as a potter. I have stayed with pottery for more than 40 years. And there is something in longevity.”
The work and travel schedule earns him admiration from fellow potters. “I truly admire his many years as a studio potter, raising a family, making and selling pots all over the southeastern United States,” says Terry Gess, a member at Mica, a cooperative gallery in downtown Bakersville where Ross, a founding member, also displays his work.
“His work is distinctive in that the imagery includes flora and fauna from our region and effectively complements the other work at Mica,” says fellow artist Suze Lindsay, co-owner with her husband, Kent McLaughlin, of Fork Mountain Pottery. When not creating, Ross involves himself in developing the arts in his community and mentoring the next generation of potters.
He will participate, along with many other Mitchell and Yancey County artists, in the Toe River Arts Council’s Studio Tour December 6–8. “Everybody really enjoys coming up to the mountains and visiting the artists and craftsmen in our area,” Ross says.
Snow Creek Pottery is located at 353 Snow Creek Road in Bakersville. Find David Snow on Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 828.467.1904. Mica, the cooperative gallery of fine contemporary craft, is located at 37 North Mitchell Avenue in Bakersville. Find out more about the Toe River Arts Council Studio Tour at ToeRiverArts.org.