By Gina Malone
It took two tries for Brevard’s Lucy Clark to become a potter. She first took wheel throwing classes about 10 years ago. “I thought I could be good since my hands were strong and sensitive,” she says. She has had a massage therapy practice for more than 27 years. But, “I was awful,” she says of the pottery wheel classes. I walked out of those classes so disappointed and thought I would never touch clay again.”
When a friend and master hand build potter in Florida, Worley Faver, suggested that she takes classes with him on this different technique with clay, she agreed. “After the first class, I was transfixed,” she says. “After taking three classes from him, I set about creating vessels.”
Her methods of coil building each piece from low-fire earthenware clay and then carving and burnishing with quartz stone for a natural sheen are methods used by Pueblo potters in New Mexico. In 2016, after winning the Betty Taylor Award for Emerging Artists given by the Community Foundation of Henderson County, Clark traveled to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, NM, the area where Georgia O’Keeffe lived, to study with Pueblo potter and professor Clarence Cruz.
“I spent three weeks learning to work with micaceous clay and his form of traditional firings, which include open pit fire and reduction,” Clark says. “The evolution of my work after returning from that first trip has been explosive.”
Last January, she returned to Ghost Ranch as a staff member. During her three-and-one-half week visit, she was invited to the home of Maria Martinez, a Pueblo potter whose work she admires. “To say that I was humbled,honored and giddy as a teenage girl on her first date would be an understatement. I am forever touched by their traditions and their commitment to their heritage,” she says of the Pueblo potters. “Although the way that I build is very similar to theirs, my intention is to bring my own voice along with the history, to create something new from a well-traveled path.”
Clark spent nine years of her childhood living in the mountains of West Virginia. From there, her family moved to Iowa and then Florida. A memorable stay in Brevard many years ago with her husband Bob affected her deeply. “I felt I was home for the first time since leaving the mountains of West Virginia,” she says. They eventually bought a home at Cedar Mountain, visiting several times each year and, in 2014, relocated there. She cut her massage practice in half and began to devote more time to her craft.
Clark says her practices of massage and working with clay are similar. “In both, I am simply working to smooth out the rough spots. There is a definite commitment to fluidity in all that I do. There are too many sharp angles in this world; my vision is to soften and round things out.”
Her work has evolved with the use of natural clay pigments from New Mexico, mixed metal leaf and mixed media such as wire mesh screen and copper. She adds stone to ceramic pendants to make jewelry. Her venture into wall sculptures came about because so many potential customers for her vessels lamented the fact that children and pets made them hesitant to buy anything fragile.
“I never know where each piece comes from or what direction it will take,” she says. “Picasso said, ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’ So that’s what I do. I am prolific, and a day without touching clay is a day wasted for me.” Many hours go into perfecting the pieces, but that is unimportant to her. “What matters to me is that it is beautiful.”
To learn more, visit lucyclarkpottery.com and Facebook and Instagram at Lucy Clark Pottery. Her blog, The Life of Mud, is available through WordPress. Beginning May 1, her working studio/ gallery will move to Trade Arama at 51 West Main Street in Brevard. Hours are Monday and Wednesday through Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 12–4 p.m. The studio is closed on Tuesdays. Her work is also shown at The Gallery at Flat Rock in Flat Rock, Red Wolf Gallery in Brevard and Piedmont Craftsmen Gallery, Winston-Salem.