As a bustling artist enclave found on the banks of the French Broad River, Asheville’s River Arts District (RAD) pulses with an artistic energy born of diverse media and collaboration. Located in the RAD, The Village Potters Clay Center is a vibrant creative community dedicated to the exploration of clay. Today’s guest is Owner, Founder, and Resident Potter, Sarah Wells Rolland, who works from her studio at The Village Potters to produce highly sought-after ceramic artworks that are sold in galleries across the US.
In this episode, Sarah shares what it takes to become a professional ceramic artist, why she decided to create a shared collective and gallery space in The Village Potters, and how she helps others “find their voice in clay.” We also discuss why Asheville is integral to the success of ‘The Village’, how the RAD’s artists have come together to govern, support, and manage the district as a community, and where Sarah suggests first-time visitors to the RAD start their journey, as well as her tips for those looking to expand their collection of ceramic art. Join us today to learn more from RAD ambassador and clay artist extraordinaire, Sarah Wells Rolland!
Key Points From The Village Potters Episode:
- Louise and Daryl introduce The Village Potters, the River Arts District, and Marquee.
- Get a glimpse into Sarah’s 30-year career as a professional potter.
- Balancing creative and entrepreneurial energy to become a professional potter.
- Why Sarah describes pottery as a life’s work and how long it takes to master the craft.
- Fine art versus functional art and some insight into Sarah’s artistic journey.
- Learn more about the past and present of ‘The Village' and why Sarah founded it.
- How the important educational aspects of The Village help to make great potters.
- Why Sarah attributes the success of The Village to the women who work there.
- Honoring the resident potters of The Village: Christine Henry, Judi Harwood, Julia Mann, Katie Messersmith, Lori Theriault, and Ruth Rutkowsky.
- Why Sarah believes that Asheville and the RAD are integral to The Village’s success.
- Discover the unique history, layout, and collaborative spirit of the RAD.
- How artists come together as a community to market, manage, and govern the RAD.
- Sarah shares her tips for those visiting Asheville for the first time: take your time!
- Her advice for those looking to collect pottery and ceramics: buy what you love.
- The hallmarks of great pottery, from technical execution to originality.
- Where to buy The Village pottery if you can’t visit the RAD in person.
- Growth, development, and gentrification in Asheville and how it impacts Sarah’s practice.
- Hear Sarah’s recommendations for dining out in Asheville, including 12 Bones BBQ.
“My husband and I hold the lease and hold ownership of the business and the responsibility of the loans it took to make it happen but we as a collective, the group of potters, are who make this place work.” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:15:56]
“It’s easy in education in the arts to raise up people and teach them how to imitate your work. That is not what we do here. We help people explore creatively who they are and find their voice in clay.” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:18:20]
“Artists take things and repurpose [them] and make things new and that is what happened in the River Arts District.” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:36:03]
“Buy what you love. Buy what you’re going to want to live with. Art adds so much to your life, to your experience, to your home, so make sure your collection is adding to that.” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:48:30]
“This is probably true in most mediums but I know it’s true in clay: it takes many, many hours. 10,000 hours might be an understatement to really master your medium. I would say, on the average, a potter can be making quality work in three to five years, [but] probably [only] discovering identity and voice in their work at seven years. There is a lot of time invested. It is a life’s work.” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:09:34]
“The way that we have evolved, the River Arts District, where we are located, River View Station, the building we’re in, the owner of this building and how supportive she has been to us, [and] the amount of people that come to Asheville specifically because of the arts are huge building blocks to our success. [All I know] is that I’m really glad we [opened The Village Potters] where we did because we are having the best year that we have ever had and it’s because we’re on the shoulders of people who did a lot of work before us here, in this area, in the arts” — Sarah Wells Rolland [0:31:15]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Village Potters Episode:
- Sarah Wells Rolland on LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/sarah-rolland-00a0522a/
- Sarah Wells Rolland on Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/SarahWellsRolland
- Sarah Wells Rolland Pottery — http://rollandpottery.com/
- River Arts District (RAD) — https://www.riverartsdistrict.com/
- The Village Potters — https://thevillagepotters.com/
- Crazy Green Studios — https://www.crazygreenstudios.com/
- RAD Studio Stroll — https://www.riverartsdistrict.com/events/category/studio-stroll/
- Salsas — https://www.salsasnc.com/
- Mela Indian Restaurant — https://melaasheville.com/
- 12 Bones — https://www.12bones.com/