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Making art: Porché Pottery Studio offers variety of pieces

Kerry Porche is pictured with a handful of pieces he had on display at one of his recent open houses. The natural elements from this area that inspire much of his work can be seen in the pots and stoneware that he creates. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Kendal Groner)

By Kendal Groner

If you walk into Porché’s Pottery Studio, you can find an array of traditional, hand-decorated, functional pots and stoneware, many of which are infused with elements of nature inspired by this area.

With a long background as a painter, Kerry Porché found himself drawn to pottery while he was attending Louisiana State University.

“Somehow I discovered it at LSU and it was completely new to me,” Porché said. “Painting I always knew about; I had been making oil paintings since probably second grade.”

After attending Ohio University where he received a Master’s of Fine Arts, Porché and his family lost their home in Ohio due to flooding. After leaving their home and art business, in 2003 Porché and his family found their way to Erwin, which he said lured them because of the whitewater kayaking opportunities.

Porché said between raising kids and working other jobs he was unable to make pottery as much and stopped until he experienced a series of events in 2010 that forced him to reevaluate how he spent his time.

“In 2010, I lost my grandmother, my mother and my uncle all in that one year,” he said. “I realized life was kind of short and I needed to get back to making and I just couldn’t paint anymore, it was like that well was empty.”

He said in the meantime, as he was looking for a creative outlet to satisfy his passion for art, he kept coming across pottery and found himself increasingly drawn to it. He soon bought a small kiln and transformed the old woodshop on his property into a pottery studio. As he started practicing pottery again, he began relearning the craft by self-educating himself and eventually acquiring a scholarship to attend Penland Schools of Crafts, a well-respected art school in Mitchell County North Carolina.

From 2016-17, Porché apprenticed under Matt Jones in Leicester, North Carolina. Porché described Jones as a “wonderful potter” and said that through his apprenticeship, his mentors had ties and influences back to Michael Pardue, one of the founders of contemporary studio pottery.

Although he also manages condominiums, does handy work, and teaches on the side, Porché devotes the majority of his work time to his pottery work.

“This is 60 to 80 hours a week making pottery,” he said.

One of the things Porché said he loves about pottery is the idea of having a functional piece and object that people can understand, as opposed to people misinterpreting the piece, which he says can often happen with fine art.

“But with this, I can still be abstract or figurative,” said Porché. “And this area does so much to inspire you.”

His inspiration from the surrounding natural world can be evidenced by the crows, black bears, mallards, owls, deer and fish that can be found on many of his pieces.

Porché said during his hour-long commutes to Leicester, where he would stay one night a week in a cabin to work, he often noticed the crows on the side of the road.

“That’s where these crows in my pottery came from,” he explained. “There’s just something about them that gets me. I’m trying to figure out deer; I’m working on more fish and a raccoon right now as well. Many of my pieces represent parts of Tennessee wildlife.”

Some of his other influences come from archaic and folk traditional artwork along with English slipware, a method where he said you are essentially drawing with wet clay.

“That’s the kind of stuff that speaks to the old man in me, the romantic” he laughed.

The kiln, which Porché and his son actually rebuilt themselves after purchasing it, is about 30 cubic feet and holds approximately 150 pieces depending on their size. The entire process for making, decorating and firing, usually takes around 6 to 8 weeks.

While making his pieces, Porché said some ideas and designs he can create along the way, but others require more planning.

“Other things, like when you’re doing big pots, I’ll have to plan this all the way from the very beginning up until when they’re going to be in a kiln so they can fire a certain way or to plan out what decorations I’ll do to them,” he said.

The paint Porché uses is mixed with decorating pigment and certain types of clay combined with cobalt to produce the color blue, or with iron oxide for shades of brown and black.

“I mix my own glazes and I used to mix my own clay, but I found my own clay that I don’t have to mix anymore,” said Porsche.

While some pieces can be thrown in five minutes on the pottery wheel, others can take up to 30 minutes. From start to finish, he said each piece takes about an hour. Although Porché makes pieces of all sizes, he wants to start making some pots as large as four to five feet tall.

“I like those right now because those are my most recent challenge,” he said.

Porché said that he felt like the number of art enthusiasts in the Erwin area was beginning to pick up and added that he enjoys showing and teaching others about pottery.

“Part of me teaching and showing is trying to educate people also,” he said. “I really just enjoy making things. If I can visualize something I can make it.”

Porché Pottery Studio is located at 312 Tucker St. in Erwin. If you are interested in viewing some of Porché’s pottery, you can reach him at 773-3210 or [email protected]