Waynesville ceramicist Laurey-Faye Dean grew up in a fundamentalist preacher’s family, around churchgoers who were true believers. Then, as a child, she found the Penland Book of Pottery – written by a community of potters from Penland, NC.
“I realized that the people in the book felt the same way about pottery that people I knew felt about church. For the first time in my life, I had found something as deep and complex and rich as what people found going to church. To respect the craft of pottery, they had to not just learn it — and follow the rules and forms and discipline. They had to live it as a whole person, and as their whole life.”
When she got to meet a real live potter, she told him, “When I grow up, I want to do what you do.” He replied, “Well, if you figure out how to make a living doing it, let me know.”
That was a refrain she’d hear time and again. When signing up for a pottery class in college, Dean had to first sign a disclaimer stating she acknowledged that pottery was a very difficult way to make a living. Today the artist, who went on to earn a BFA at the University of Georgia, successfully operates Hazelwood Pottery in Waynesville. Her work is distinguished by lyrical, narrative motifs she calls “purposefully pretty visual poems to the Southern Appalachians.” These pieces display unusual layers of depth and complexity as she blends abstraction with recognizable images of flora, animals, and landscapes that often repeat themselves in subtle patterns.
Some of her pieces take on a magical, fantastical quality; a major influence is Bernard Palissy, a French Huguenot artist from the 16th century whose pastoral pottery was the first in Europe to use colored glazes.
Other, less formal influences track back to the potter’s childhood.
“I was inspired by Mark Trail from comic books. He was really into nature, and the illustrator did great black-and-white illustrations that managed to make the animals look realistic, not like a cartoon.”
Another pop-culture reference for Dean is Rock City, a still-thriving tourist attraction in the North Georgia mountains created by Garnet Carter, the man who invented putt-putt golf. Carter hired a sign painter to emblazon hundreds of area barns with the words “See Rock City,” and a German artist who’d emigrated to the area made endearing plaster gnomes and figures from Grimm’s Fairy Tales that were put into Rock City’s caves. “It’s absolutely enchanting,” says Dean, who still stops by Rock City sometimes.
“I went there as a child, and I’m sure I didn’t know they weren’t real. I probably thought, ‘If you can grow stalactites, just look at what this cave did.’”
Laurey-Faye Dean, Waynesville. The artist will host a grand opening of her Hazelwood Pottery studio in Waynesville (across from the Hazelwood Presbyterian Church and next to 313 Camelot Drive) during the Haywood County Open Studio Tour, to be held Saturday, Sept. 24, 10am-4pm, and Sunday, Sept. 25, 12-4pm (haywoodarts.org). Dean’s work is also sold at the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Allanstand Craft Shop in the Folk Art Center (Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, southernhighlandguild.org). For more information, call 828-226-4170 or check out “Hazelwood Pottery LF Dean” on Facebook.