Pottery by Jes: Studio 10

Meet Jessie Smith of Pottery by Jes, studio number 10 on our tour. Born and raised in Alleghany County, Jessie has a deep love and appreciation for the mountains and the locals that make up the fabric of our community. After being away for a year in photography school, Jes returned home as soon as she could. Realizing that photography was not her career path,she knew that doing something creative was meant to be. With her parents encouragement, an apprenticeship was set up with Mangum Pottery in 2010. By April 2011, Jes held her first Open House naming her business Pottery by Jes and “the rest is history.” Jes celebrates 10 years in business this year so how coincidental is it that she is number 10 on our tour! Come by Jessie’s studio during our October tours and celebrate her 10 years of creating beautiful functional pottery.

“Art is something that makes you breathe with a different kind of happiness”-Anni Albers

Nature is a strong design element in Jessie‘s pottery. She loves to incorporate textures, trees, vines, leaves, indentations and other accents to make her work distinct. She strives to represent the beauty of these mountains using clay and glazes.As you step into Jessie’s clay studio you will see, as she describes it, organized chaos with wheel pieces and slab work covering the tables and shelves in various stages of production. Her sweet dog , Arlo , may wander in to greet you… and typically many genres of music will be playing in the background.One of the rewards for Jessie is to hear from customers how they use her pottery. Some customers use their pottery daily and others have special spots picked out for their pieces to be used as decoration. To know that a bowl, a mug, a platter, a casserole will be a treasure in someone’s home or part of a memory cooking and spending time with family is what keeps Jessie vibrant and inspired as she creates each piece of pottery.

Pottery Place: Studio 9

Meet Tina Duffey and Sarah Harper of The Pottery Place, studio number 9 on our tour. These two lovely ladies are bona fide Mudbugs! Sarah is a native of Alleghany County, the Piney Creek community to be precise. She began her pottery journey years ago with Bet Mangum and Appalachian State University. She has a passion for throwing on the wheel. When she first shared some of her pottery with Tina, her cousin, that’s when Tina caught the bug! Tina, an army brat growing up, moved to Alleghany after retiring from Samford University in Birmingham Alabama as a chemistry professor. Hand building techniques are her specialty. Tina and Sarah are “right sure” that together they have 75 years of experience playing in the mud!

“…My heart has always been here.” -Tina Duffey

When asked the question “Why art?” Tina answers matter-of-factly “Why not? It balances the left brain analytical thinking of a chemist and a nurse.” Tina’s career has been in chemistry and Sarah’s has been in nursing. Working in Clay gives them a chance to explore the right brain creative side. As you walk into the two-story family farmhouse on the north side of Sparta, you are filled with a sense of home. Pottery, antiques, and beautiful handmade quilts fill each room. The studio is situated on the kitchen side of the house and accommodates wheel throwing, hand building, glazing, and firing. Come visit The Pottery Place and perhaps catch Tina and Sarah exploring their creative side!

Will Fernandez: Studio 7

Meet Will Fernandez studio number 7 on the tour. Originally from Las Villas, Cuba. His love for the mountains, rivers, and small town living brought him to Alleghany County. As a young child, his skills of drawing and sculpting were apparent. After a career in commercial art, at the age of 40 he promoted himself to strictly fine art. Will is an impressionist painter as well as a sculptor working with wood, stone, paper mache, and mostly raku clay. He enjoys making human form and a large variety of animals. His focus is mainly on movement, vigor and often humor.

While visiting Will’s work space you can likely catch him raku firing… a firing process that he enjoys showing his guests, and watching their reactions. As he takes the glowing hot sculptures out of the kiln, he then places them in sawdust where they burst into flames. He loves the response from his guests as they view this process for the first time

“it is easy to say ‘follow your dream’, but dreams can be extremely costly in too many ways to mention…but once in a great great while…” -Will Fernendez

Mangum-Cater on Main: Studio 4

Meet Robin Mangum, Daniel Cater, and Robin Cater of Mangum Cater on Main, studio number 4 on the tour.
Mangum Pottery was established in Alleghany County in the early 70’s. Cater Pots began their clay career here in the county in the mid 90’s. In 2013 they joined forces to open their joint venture on Main Street in Sparta.
Together their body of work includes functional and decorative clay work as well as metal sculpture work by Daniel. Their gallery/studio is open year round.

A walk about the gallery you will discover a wide range of function and form. Robin Mangum, a master on the potter’s wheel, will surprise you with a twisted vase, a sodium silicate crackle surface, a sculpted head with a whimsical expression. Daniel Cater jumps from clay to metal, coil building a series of clay sculptures one week to designing, fabricating, and finishing a commissioned metal sculpture. Robin Cater finds her rhythm throwing mugs, bowls, vases, and more. Occasionally she will create a series of tile and wood wall hangings, lamps, and totems.

“It’s wonderful being an artist, period. Its just a bonus to be in a place like Sparta.” Rob Mangum