Article by TSCA resident artist Tabitha Henderson
Town Square Center for the Arts is planning a special event to profile three local potters who developed and perfected their extraordinary pottery skills while living and working in the Glade Spring area. This event will coincide with the Second Annual Mountains of Music Homecoming: Along the Crooked Road to be held from June 9 to June 17, 2017.
Georgia Blizzard was born in Saltville in 1919 and later relocated to the Plum Creek area of Glade Spring. By the age of 8, Georgia taught herself to make clay pottery after watching crayfish in the local creek build “huge chimneys out of mud” which she and her sister called fairy castles. She created pots and decorative pieces that expressed her memories, surroundings and religious views and the process gained fame locally and nationally as a folk potter. Today her unique pottery is coveted by many collectors and is displayed in many national galleries. Three that depict her haunting and sometimes dark imagery now reside at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Luce Foundation Center.
Edwin and Mary Scheier, a married couple, came to reside in Southwest Virginia quite by accident. Married in 1937, the couple originally worked together as puppeteers during the Great Depression.
In 1938, while traveling from Tennessee to Mary’s home in Salem, Va, their car suffered a flat tire. They had exposure to ceramics during their time with an art center in Norris, Tenn, and while digging the car from the soggy mud, they took notice of the ample amount of red clay. They decided pottery-making might allow them to earn a better living.
They moved into a log house in town, set up a clay studio and began to learn to make pottery and ceramics from the local red clay and many other clays found nearby. They dug clay straight out of the ground fired their kiln with soft coal obtained from mines located nearby. Self-taught, Mary turned the clay on her homemade wheel and Ed perfected glazing, decorating and firing techniques. They named their business Hillcrock Pottery, and Mary reportedly turned out up to 200 pieces a day!
In 1940 they were recruited by the University of New Hampshire, where Mary became artist-in-residence and Ed became a professor without the benefit of obtaining a college degree. They taught their ceramic techniques at the university for more than twenty years and were regarded as masters of ceramics and major American Potters.
Their seven-decade love story and history as artists is captured in a 2001 documentary entitled Four Hands, One Heart. They have been called “two of America’s most significant craftspeople”.
If you or someone you know has items made by Georgia Blizzard or Edwin and Mary Scheier of Hillcrock Pottery, TSCA would be honored to display your pieces as part of its Mountains of Music Homecoming event.
For more information please call TSCA at 276-429- 1276.