Members of the Chamber staff, board of directors, and ambassadors recently joined Hank Shuler for a ribbon cutting at her newly completed clay studio in the Oak Grove community.
Having retired from Southwestern Community College two years ago, Hank and her husband Bruce have spent a good bit of their newly acquired freedom in designing and building the studio. “It’s been great fun working with Bruce again. Our individual careers took us in different directions so much of the time,” explained Hank.
Over the years the two of them have built their own home, Bruce’s sister’s home, 4 barns, and Bruce’s wood working shop.
Hank’s clay creations bear her individual mark, ranging from pure function to pure fun. Explaining the diversity found in her work, “I guess I really have a short attention span. I enjoy using the wheel and turning more functional pieces, pieces for the kitchen and dining room table. What is referred to as hand building, using coils or slabs to create pottery, also holds special interest to me. But I also enjoy creating sculpture and the fun of firing in the Japanese raku tradition.
“This past year hasn’t allowed me much time with clay, so at this point my mind is really whirling with projects I want to get to. None of those projects include throwing 300 identical mugs or 250 identical bowls.
“My principle clay instructor and mentor, Joe Frank McKee of Tree House Pottery in Dillsboro, tried to encourage me to pick a style and develop it but I just can’t do it. Again, I guess it’s that short attention span.
Among her other activities since retirement, Hank has undertaken the task of creating the Smoky Mountain Clay Guild. She explained, “I was encouraged in this task by my good friend, fellow potter, and former teacher – Elise Pincu Delfield. There are a lot of wonderful potters in the region and more and more are coming out of SCC, WCU, and Haywood Community College all the time. North Carolina is the pottery capital of the USA and a number of us feel that this region can benefit from the potters joining together to attract marketing attention.
“Carmen Holland, one of the SCC Heritage Arts students is also a computer student over at WCU. She worked with Dr. Dan Clapper and some of his students to create a smart phone app designed to provide users with an opportunity to visit Smoky Mountain Clay Guild member studios. We’re really excited about the project and expect to see it go live before this coming spring. We expect this to really jump-start our guild activities.”