My week at Arrowmont School for Arts and Crafts

I had a beautiful drive through the Virginia mountains down into the Great Smokies to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where Arrowmont is located. It was really strange because you drive through these beautiful mountains and then all of a sudden, you end up on a main street that looks like they dropped the state fair on it. There are places to buy fudge and candy and play mini golf and ride go karts and a giant aquarium and a ski lift and every manner of attraction that you can think of. At first I thought I must be in the wrong place or have missed my turn even though my GPS kept telling me that I had arrived at my destination. On searching my surroundings when I looked to the left I found the sign for Arrowmont wedged between the sign for Cooters Go Karts and a sign for downtown parking. Just about 200 feet off of the road that seem to encapsulate Disneyland was the main office and all the buildings that make up Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts.

The Aquarium across the street from Arrowmont

Gatlinburg is a strange mix of religion and roadside attractions

Yes, we did...

One of the many boardwalk type attractions

After getting registered and being assigned to my room I went to the cottage called "Teachers". The cottage was really cool and had a big screened in front porch and a common room with a refrigerator and couches which was really nice but the bizarre thing was that my bedroom was located behind a bathroom which was supposed to be for common use. The only problem was that if someone else was using the bathroom, you were locked in the bed room unless you wanted to use the door that went outside and walk all the way around the building to get into the common room or anywhere else that you wanted to go.

My tiny room accessed through a bathroom

The awesome porch

My first night there was pretty rough because the room was tiny and I was assigned a roommate and she snored all night and so I didn't sleep and was really exhausted for my first day of class. Fortunately, she asked to be moved and I had the room to myself and no one else used the bathroom so the rest of the week was fine as far as that one.

I was so excited for my class because my instructor was

Jason Walker

a sculptural ceramic artist from outside of Seattle, Washington. His work is exquisite with the quality of construction and finely painted detail that I can only dream of ever mastering. I wanted to take Jason's class because having been a painter for so long and now being in love with ceramics, my goal is to learn to paint better and better on my own ceramic work.

City Animal: Squirrel by  Jason Walker

A porcelain cup by Jason Walker

porcelain cup detail

Jason's class did not disappoint. He is a fine teacher and a really lovely person. He was very humble and encouraging to all of us students. He was very thorough in explaining his process and very patient with each of us as we try to master the skills from construction to painting. I didn't have such an easy time with the three-dimensional construction. Hand building has never really been a great love of mine and I was hoping that the class would turn me more in it's favor. I'm still not sure that I have the patience for it and the piece that I worked so hard on ended up collapsing.

 Clay can be a heart breaker and that's part of the learning process as well. Jason's class was about a creating a personal narrative and developing images and ceramic pieces that told a story, whatever your story happened to be. Everyone in the class seemed to have a good time with that premise, creating all kinds of dreamlike and whimsical figures. There were some in the class who were very prolific creating about six different pieces and then there was me, who ended up with my  one 3-D piece breaking and coming home with only one completely finished piece and one piece that didn't make it into the kiln. 

But that was okay because I didn't go there to come home with a lot of finished stuff.  I went to learn a process and that's what I spend my time on. 

I learned from Jason how to layer under glazes to give them more depth and to use shading and crosshatching much like I do with paint to create texture and form on my pieces. I'm very proud of the piece that I came home with and I look forward to applying what I learned to my new pieces. I'm not sure that I want to make sculptural pieces like Jason does. I'm going to try hand building again but I like throwing on the wheel the best. I want to make art pieces but I like making beautiful functional pieces as well. My work and process is always unfolding and new, so who knows where my new found skills will lead me...

Jason demonstrating construction 

My friend Michele aka "Cindy Lou" working on a wall piece 

Jason working on fish wall piece

My 3d work in progress

detail- trying to emulate Jason's brush work but I have a long way to go

My finished piece going into the kiln