Connie Norman
Connie Norman

Whynot Pottery – Meredith Heywood – Artist Interview

Today’s interview is with Meredith Heywood of Whynot Pottery.  Whynot Pottery is owned operated by Mark and Meredith Heywood. Meredith is the brains behind the show Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story.  I was really impressed with the brilliant idea of the show and the clay community. I loved reading the all the posts leading up the big event. You could feel the excitement gather all around the world. In my opinion, what made this such an amazing event; it brought a community together that lives in the virtual world to the real world. The artists got to meet, converse, see each other’s art and touch each other, figuratively and physically. The relationships that were already formed are now stronger, and the clay community is now so much more intertwined. Meredith congratulations on a making a grand idea a reality!!

Meredith writes a blog called Whynot Pottery Blog, if you have the time and want to learn more about Meredith and Mark Heywood and Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story, click on over. 

For more information on Jugtown Pottery visit the Craft in America website. 

meredith and mark

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am the 4th child, second daughter of 5 children. My father was a Newspaper man and my mother was a Math teacher. I was born in Charlotte North Carolina but I was reared in Norfolk Va. (I was always told you rear children and raise pigs)  In 1959 my grandparents retired to my grandfather’s birth place of Why Not North Carolina. There my two brothers and two sisters and I would spend our summers.  Some of our jobs on the farm were chasing cows, and working in tobacco, but we spent more time fishing and swimming in the large pond on the property.

My first exposure to pottery would be through friends and neighbors of my grandparents; Philmore Graves and his wife Nell Cole Graves of JB Cole’s pottery and Walter and Dorothy Cole Auman of Seagrove Pottery.  Pottery became part of the family summers, just as working on the farm was. We spent time in and out of Seagrove and JB Cole Pottery.  My of my favorite memories of the potteries were of picking up small bits of glazed shards out in the driveway at Cole’s pottery. We thought of the tiny bits of glazed pieces as if they were gems.

meredithcelebration%20meredith2009How did you become an artist?

In 1976 my husband Mark, myself and our 3 month old son, Joel, moved to the family farm to take care of the property. We added a daughter, Anna, at the end of 1977.  Mark went off to work while I stayed home with the children. We were raising goats, pigs, rabbits and had a large vegetable garden. I baked bread and canned everything we grew. We were a couple of Hippie kids living off the land.

After moving to the farm we became very close to Walter and Dorothy Auman. They were like a second set of parents to us and grandparents to our children. They were always there when we needed advice making us feel welcomed and cared for.  One day Dorothy called to introduce me to a young woman who was working at Jugtown Pottery, Agnes Almquist. Agnes needed someone to take care of her daughter while she made pots. I took in Sarah 3 days a week so Agnes could throw. She fit right in with my two. My son and she were the same age. Anna, our daughter was 9 months at the time.  We became good friends with Agnes, and her husband, John, also a potter. They encouraged us both to learn to throw. We started out on a borrowed wheel from Jugtown Pottery and after many attempts we knew we needed more instruction so we enrolled in the Pottery program at the Community College in Troy NC.  We also took full advantage of the older potters who lived and worked around us. We watched them work and they were full of useful information.  We were greatly influenced by them and their dedication to their work.

I also worked for 15 years on with the North Carolina Potters Conference in Asheboro North Carolina. I was able to meet and be exposed to many contemporary working potters, which was an education in its self.

meredithcreamandsugar2009How would you describe your style?

I have been greatly influenced by the older potters of Seagrove. I was lucky to be here at a time when some of the old timers were still living and working. It was potters such as Dorothy and Walter Auman, Nell Cole and her brother Waymon , Virginia Shelton and Vernon Owens who would have an influence on what I do now. It was important to take the traditional shapes of the area and put my own spin on them.

markironredvase2009 One of the hardest things for artists to do is to stand apart from everyone else. How long did it take you to come up with your own style and signature look?

I think it took many years for me to come to a place where I feel comfortable with clay.  I started out following the type of wares made in the area. It would be about 10 years before I would step away from those pots into something new.  I think I am always looking for new things to add to what I do. I love to have a thought and follow it.


What is your inspiration for your pieces?  What keeps you motivated?

Bills- we have to pay the bills we call the bills our incentive.  Mark and I have been at this for close to 30 years.  We went into this as a business and treat it as such.  We are motivated by many things:

The desire to create and the determination to make a living from what we make.

It is a fine line between just making pottery and making pottery that will pay the bills.

Jeri 081309 Are you a full-time artist?

Yes, we knew we wanted to be able to make our living from pottery. We knew potters who had been making pottery all their lives. We went into this with the knowledge that it was hard work but rewarding. We are a two person operation with both parties completely responsible for every step in the process from the bookwork and marketing to the throwing, glazing, and firing. We talk daily about what we are doing and how we can make it better.  I know this is supposed to be about me but it is hard to write as if I am doing this alone.

My husband Mark and I started our business together and the journey into clay so I have to add him into my conversation.  Mark and I both trained as production potters. We knew in order to make a living from our work we would need the skills to reproduce some of the same work over and over. During the first 10 years in business this is what we did.  We developed shapes that we could easily reproduce.  It was about 10 years in, with some skills behind us, when we allowed ourselves the time to play. We added in play time to our weeks and out of the play time the pots began to change. We started to take a plain pot and see what would happen if…

We also moved from pottery that was just plain- shapes made for decorating- to shapes that we would carve and stamp to enhance the areas where the ash glazes were drawn to.  We moved left field over to wood ash glazes and they wanted places to run and settle.  Our work is ever evolving, just as our audience is. We try to shift and change to meet the needs of the customers without compromising our needs.  I started making tiles a few years back and now I find myself less and less on the wheel and more on the slab roller.

My main advice to anyone new who is starting up is you have to love this.  Pottery is hard work physically and mentally.  It takes a toll on your body so keep in shape and it takes a toll on your mind. There are so many times that you will doubt what you are doing. I have days where I think I am done. I walk out of the studio and fantasize about working some where else. Then the next day I am up and ready for what ever the day brings.  Or in the middle of the night you think – what if I …. Back to clay once again!

the%20kiln%20after%20fire%20and%20cool How do you come up with your creations?

This is a good question.  It might be just a shape I want to work on.  It might be an item I want to reproduce for sale in our gallery.  Or an item I am working on for a customer.  I have never thought of myself as an artist, but more of a person who went after a skill.

Tell us about Clay and Blogs:Telling a Story .

the%20dayafterinside%202008 In July Of 2008 we were struck by lighting and our main work building burned.  For the first time in out career we were out of a place to work.  It would take weeks of clean up to set me  up in another building with a borrowed wheel.  We were offered and took spthe%20day%20after2008ace at a factory about 10 miles away.  Mark packed off what he could there and set up a place to work and I stayed here.  It would be the first time in years we would work separately.  It was a very difficult time for both of us. There was a lot of stress from losing the work building, the damage on wheels, slab roller, pug mill and loss of 28 years of “stuff”.  The fire was hotter on my side of the building- I lost books, patterns, notebooks, tools bats, you name it if it was plastic, wood or paper it did not fair well in the fire.  Mark lost as much as I did – homemade brushes, tools.  There are still days we look for an item that was lost to the fire.  This separation of  space let me at home with times where I was not working.  I was spending a lot of time on the  computer looking up prices for replacement items and dealing with the insurance claim.

I had started a blog back in May.  I really did not know what to do with this blog it was mostly just recipes.  With the fire it became a way for me to write through my thoughts.  There were many posts where I would just weep as I wrote.  The first time someone posted a comment I was floored- someone was reading what I wrote. I felt so fragile at that time and the positive response was uplifting.  I continue to write and post pictures as we rebuilt, moved back in and as we resumed our lives.  I can never express how great it feels to have our life as potters back.

So the show- Clay and Blogs: Telling a Story.

As bloggers we are always story telling- this is what a blog is.  The clay part- well- we are all potters.  I wanted to do a exhibition that showed the connection and communities being built on line.  For me, over the course of rebuilding our studio and going back to work, I found this community. Many of the potters in the show have become very good friends of ours.  It is interesting to have not met a person in the flesh and yet feel the connections you feel to them.  I truly enjoy checking in on the blogs and seeing what is new in someone’s life.  The blogs are a combination of work, family and thought.  They are daily diaries of working potters of today.  I find they run the gambit of content.  Some are all business while most cross the line of personal thought, family, food, travel and business.  I also found that most of them are very positive and supportive.

Why these potters for this exhibition?

I did not choose all the potters for the exhibition.  I chose the first group and asked them to give me a name of someone they read and admired. They did and then asked for a name from that person and so on.  The funny thing that happened was the whole thing seemed to go full circle. I asked someone that asked someone and then it would come back around to someone I knew and read.  There were just a few folks in the exhibition that I did not know and yet over the course of working out the exhibition I feel I know all of the potters in some way. It was such a pleasure to work with this group.  I had 50 potters with 46 blogs and only two decided not to send work.  I think with the odds of this the show was quite a success.  Especially with the work shipped in from The UK, Spain, Australia and Canada.  I have been to see the exhibition twice and each time it has had more to give to me.  The exhibition comes down the end of this week, but a lot of the work will be moved into the gift shop of the gallery. I hope that folks will still get over to see some of the work.

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11 Responses to “Whynot Pottery – Meredith Heywood – Artist Interview”

  1. Tharice Says:

    I love this story it made laugh and cry and yea remember this is who you and Mark are and to think I have known you for 40++ years…I love you and love your stories

  2. meredith@whynot Says:

    Hi Connie- thanks- it has been great to get to know you a little better.
    I hope we get a chance to meet in person one of these days.

  3. Linda Starr Says:

    What a great in depth interview. I’m one of the bloggers who met Meredith through her blog and we became blogging friends and then I met she and Mark in person just before the Clay and Blogs show. It’s been a pleasure getting to know Meredith and Mark on the blog and then in person, learning about their pottery and life surrounding it.

  4. Laurie Says:

    Thanks for sharing this interview. You really are a wonderful story teller, Meredith! And I learned more about you and Mark reading this. Congratulations!

  5. Connie Says:

    Hi Linda
    It is so cool that you got to meet them in person!! And the show looked fabulous. I’m very envious of all you. It really looks like you made some great friends.

  6. Connie Says:

    I really hope so. That would be great!

  7. jim Says:

    great interview meredith (and connie). the section about working out of your fire tragedy and how the blog helped out was truly moving… that must’ve been just a bit before i started following what’s always going on over there at whynot. i also liked to read the part of how you got into it. your summers as a child reminded me of the idyllic summers of my childhood. connie – congrats on 2 years of blogging.

  8. ang Says:

    super read meredith, I remember you talking about the fire, so i must have started reading your blog just after it…and what a great story of how your business came to be and yeh for the slab roller i have my moments with it too :) ) and cheers connie another great piece..

  9. Jen Mecca Says:

    That was a wonderful story-I really enjoyed learning more about how Meredith and Mark got started. The fire and what that must have been like to go through..well a potter or artist can only imagine.

    I thought it was such a wonderful evant that Meredith put together for all the bloggers out there. It was a honor to be a part of that show and I know it must have taken so much work on her part to put that show together. Meredith always has such positive things to say about her work and life as a potter, truly inspires me to stay focused and just keep working! Three Cheers for Meredith and Mark!

  10. Kristin Says:

    Great interview about an amazing woman!

  11. Claypot Says:

    This are amazing and wonderful designs I have ever seen. When it comes to pottery making I’m very much passionate about it. But I’m not good at designs. I’m thinking of exploring more about pottery designs.