Mountain artists’ takes on traditional pottery

Potters in West Virginia pack the natural beauty and heritage of our region into purposeful works of art for everyday life.

Mountain State potters draw from elements of our heritage, from old-time Appalachian kitchenware to the natural beauty of the mountains. The masterful works from Norma Acord’s home studio in Camp Creek are inspired by farm life.

“I grew up in a farm family, and you were always kind of categorized by what you offered,” she said. “I couldn’t bale hay or tend to the pigs, so I helped prepare meals. That’s where the initial pottery ideas came from. I would put an object on the dinner table that would start a conversation about how it was made and the intention behind it.”

Norma’s work was influenced by these memories, in particular her grandmother’s clothing.

“She wore this floral smock, and it was just like an immediate connection to home for me,” she said. “Her smock, her placemats and her wallpaper were all a connection to my home, so I incorporated them into my work.”

She crafts pottery to be used in the home, so that when her ceramics are placed on someone’s dinner table, it creates the memories just like the ones that inspired her.

“We have great potters in this state, some who have been doing it for decades, and we all tend to agree that we want our work to be functional rather than conceptual,” she said. “Conceptual art is wonderful and is to be respected, but most of us hope our work is actually used.”

The Tamarack Artisan Foundation helps Appalachian artists like Norma share their craft and heritage far and wide.

“West Virginia has a rich history of art and craft, and potters are a vital part of our entire creative economy,” said Alissa Novoselick, executive director of the foundation.

The reach that the Tamarack Artisan Foundation helps foster can be essential for local potters. At one recent national show alone, Norma was able to pick up 12 accounts from boutiques and specialty shops in D.C., California, Maine and Maryland.

The unique personal inspirations, along with the intricacy of her craftsmanship, caught people’s attention.

“I stood out, because my work was different,” she said. “They found our work thoughtful. Mine doesn’t look highly produced because each piece has a really hand-crafted element. Every piece is hand-drawn and painted through a process where I layer different types of glazes together. It looks more expensive because of that technique.”You can find impeccable examples Norma’s and other potters’ mountain-inspired works at galleries like Tamarack: The Best of West Virginia.

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This post was last updated on July 21, 2020