Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Artist of the Week – Kyle Smith

Posted 3/15/2012 11:29:00 AM

South Carolina has no shortage of great pottery. From ancient Catawba Indian pottery to Edgefield’s 200-year-old stoneware tradition, the state seems to inspire artists to get their hands in our red clay earth.

Still, amid all of that wonderful work, Kyle Smith’s pottery stands out. His subtle blue and green glazes combined with his reedy grass designs make his pottery seem almost like an extension of nature. His pottery is lovely and functional; it’s not meant to be seen behind glass, but to be beautifully integrated into your everyday life.

Q: You are originally from Pennsylvania – so how did you find your way to South Carolina?
A:
About 10 years ago after I graduated from college, I was applying for art teaching positions while bartending in Pennsylvania. A good friend of mine from my high school golf team gave me a call and asked if I wanted to be his assistant golf professional at a country club in Columbia. I said, “Why not?” and found myself driving down I-95 about three days later. It was a pretty exciting move for me at the time

Q: How did you first become interested in pottery and ceramics? What is it that drew you to that art form?
A:
By my senior year in high school I had taken most of my required classes, so I decided to take a ceramics course instead of a study hall. I was immediately drawn to the potter’s wheel. I loved being able to make things that were perfectly symmetrical, although, many of my earlier pieces weren't exactly symmetrical.

Q: Your pottery is so lovely and I love that so much of it is practical as well. When you sit down in your studio, how do you decide what you will create that day?
A:
When I first started my business in 2008, most of my work was decorative, and I noticed people telling me that it was nice but they just didn’t have the room for it. The few functional pieces that I made were selling well, so naturally I made more functional pieces. Most of my ideas have simply come from customer suggestions at craft shows and local markets. I now have about 50 different items that I sell. I decide what to make on any given day by factoring in what is selling, what is low in inventory, or if I want to make a prototype for a new idea.

Q: Are you still doing any teaching?
A:
Yes I am. My full-time job is teaching Art at Southeast Middle School in the Richland School District One here in Columbia. I am very fortunate to work for a great school with a very supportive faculty and staff. After I had some repairs done on an old kiln in my classroom and recycled 1,000 pounds of leftover dried up clay, I was able to incorporate ceramics into our curriculum. The students absolutely love it.

Q: Where can people see your work?
A:
I mostly display and sell my work on Saturdays at the All-Local Farmers' Market in Columbia at 711 Whaley Street. I will be there about twice a month throughout the year. I also plan to start selling at Saturday markets in Greenville and Charleston this year as well as other arts and crafts shows. I will have my dates and locations posted on my website soon.

Q: If a visitor to South Carolina was interested in seeing pottery in the state, where would you send them?
A:
I would suggest stopping by Edgefield and touring Old Edgefield Pottery. Southern Pottery in Columbia also has a nice variety of work. Or try the Backman Gallery in Columbia, which has original works created by the City of Columbia Art Studio members. Otherwise, come find me. I will always have something new and interesting on display.