Andrew Stephenson was born in Birmingham, England in 1972 and moved to the states with his family in 1979. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from East Carolina University in 1996. After graduation he moved to Asheville, NC to take a position as a resident potter at the Odyssey Center for the Ceramic Arts, followed by a two -year apprenticeship with Matt Jones. Andrew continues the long tradition of creating wood and salt fired North Carolina pottery and teaches pottery at Western Piedmont Community College in Morganton, NC and at John C Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.
How did you get started in clay?
I started out as a business major at ECU and after taking my first economics class changed my mind. I switched to the art program and was going to do graphic design. I attended a pottery workshop that inspired me to sign up for a clay class the next semester and I fell in love with it.
(Listen to Andrew’s interview, ‘Make Art and Money’, with Paul Blais on The Potters Cast for more about how he got started in clay and how business plays an important role in his life as a production potter.)
Tell us a bit about your technique.
I make my clay from a mix of dry materials, water and some local red clay. The clay is mixed with a drill and poured into drying racks where it sits for up to 4 weeks until it has dried to the right consistency for turning on the wheel. My throwing cycle will typically be a 4 to 6 week process, starting with the turning of larger pieces such as vases, bowls, and pitchers. I then move on to plates and serving bowls and finish with small pots like mugs and bud vases. The pots are then decorated and glazed – I incorporate slip trailing, brushwork designs (painted by my wife), and bits of imbedded glass that melt during the firing to add designs and texture.
I fire my pots in a kiln that takes approximately 2 1/2 truck loads of wood to fire. Once the pots are loaded the kiln is preheated with a small burner to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. Wood is added over a 17-19 hour period until the kiln reaches 2400 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point, salt is thrown in to help flux out the wood ash on the pots and glaze any raw areas. The kiln cools for 2 days before the pots are unloaded.
What five words best describe your work?
Honest, traditional, functional, affordable, wood-fired
What do you listen to while you work?
I listen to everything from rock-a-billy, alt country, to classic rock and R&B. I usually put on Spotify and shuffle between 2100 songs on my playlist. I also listen to a few podcasts and NPR.
What is your favorite thing about being a ceramic artist?
My favorite thing about being a ceramic artist is taking a piece of dirt and turning it into a functional item.