Last fall, after applying to numerous apprenticeships across the country, some with sculptors and some with functional potters, artist, Hannah McGehee landed in Asheville as apprentice and part of The Village Potters’ Independent Study Program. However, throwing pots and creating art did not always factor into Hannah’s professional plans. After graduating from Dartmouth College, Hannah was initially looking towards a far different path.
"I studied medical anthropology, focusing on Himalayan studies, while also completing my pre-med classes. On the side, I took two art classes—figure drawing and intro drawing—and worked at the college ceramic studio. During my junior and senior years I did a fellowship interviewing fibromyalgia patients and exploring how people tell their stories through non-verbal means, mostly through art. I put together an art exhibit and website, and during that process got really into figure sculpture. When I graduated, I decided that clay—both functional and sculptural—is what I wanted to pursue. Eventually I hope to tie these skills back into my research on fibromyalgia and the communication of pain through art."
Originally from Denver and a small town nestled in the mountains of Colorado, Hannah has always been drawn to art. She recalls, "I did a lot of drawing, not as much painting, and weird found-object construction, building mirrors out of microwave doors and such." Throughout her childhood she dabbled with wheel throwing, but it wasn’t until college that the medium really solidified into a passion. Hannah describes her early interactions with clay:
"I had a math teacher who taught throwing once a week after school. We would go to the basement and work on wheels. I totally loved it and she let me take a wheel home for the summer. It was awesome. But then I didn’t do it again until my sophomore year of high school. Again, a similar situation – I took a class and was able to go in after school to work, but then I didn’t really do it again until l got to college."
Now, as a part of The Village Potters, Hannah has the opportunity to develop her craft under the guidance of seven resident potters. As part of her responsibilities, Hannah teaches and works twelve hours a week as an apprentice maintaining the studio. She is also part of the independent study program which features workshops every eight weeks. A recent workshop focused entirely on bowls, another on raku firing. However, artists are not tethered to these workshops and have the space to explore their own interests. The program is designed so that potters can choose their own focus, while mentors help them realize their artistic and business goals.
Hannah is currently working on both functional and sculptural clay pieces. While she is creating pet bowls and treat jars, she is also working on clay sculptures of human figures. Hannah describes her style and process:
"My sculptures are a mix of abstract and realistic. It depends on what I am focusing on at the time. Often I will just start with a block of clay and begin carving to see what comes out. Other times, I’ll have done a drawing from life and will try and sculpt from that."
Along with her work in the pottery studio, Hannah also works at Brother Wolf, a no-kill animal shelter. Her medical work at Brother Wolf melds together her interest in medicine and her love of animals.
In the coming months, Hannah is focusing on throwing larger pots (large enough to sit or stand in!) and honing her sculpture skills, both of people and animals. She recently returned to Asheville inspired by a figure sculpture workshop at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. We’re excited to watch the evolution of Hannah’s work as she moves from making clay items for dogs/cats to depicting their likenesses, as well.
Hannah’s beautiful pet bowls and treat jars can be found here.