The Yellow Clay Road Leads to Leicester

THE DOCTOR IS IN
Alan “Doc” Welty’s studio in Leicester is a testament to a life in clay.
Photo by Colby Rabon

“While attending Herron School of Art & Design in Indianapolis, I carried my supplies around in an old doctor’s bag, prompting my pals to dub me ‘Doc.’” 

The name stuck — and so did the clay. Welty had been studying commercial art, but a fellow student showed him around the ceramics department, “and I began spending all my time there,” says Welty. “I found it to be a fascinating experience.”

In 1973, he built his first studio and his first kick wheel in Broad Ripple, Indiana, a small Midwestern town. “I lived in a little cabin there and started down the yellow clay road.” He adds, “I tried to make money selling my pottery, but soon found out the better you got, the easier it was to sell your work.”

The potter’s stoneware vases and planters have a classic antique patina.
Photo by Colby Rabon

Three years later and a few miles farther north in Whitestone, Indiana, Welty established Woodsman Pottery, a one-man operation where he built his first kilns—an oil-fired kiln and a small wood-fired one. He began focusing his creative efforts on making functional stoneware. “Lots of cups, bowls, and flower pots,” he recalls.

Heirloom dinnerware mug
Photo by Colby Rabon

After seven years in Whitestone, he moved again, this time a hundred miles south to Paoli, Indiana, where he opened Log Creek Pottery. He continued to create stoneware, but at the same time began working on larger architectural tile pieces, utilizing two new kilns he’d built (a gas downdraft kiln and a wood cross-draft kiln). “These larger kilns accommodated the progress in the types and sizes of the pieces I was then making.”

An example of the potter’s custom tilework.
Photo by Colby Rabon

But earning a steady stream of income still wasn’t always easy, and so for several years in Paoli, Welty also ran a sign shop. “[It] kept me busy doing commercial design work. I would do a bit of pottery when I could, just to keep my hand in,” he explains. 

A textured stoneware vessel
Photo by Colby Rabon

In the spring of 2004, he and his wife Melanie moved to Western North Carolina. Here, he built yet another studio he dubbed The Pottery. This one, however, became distinctly different from the others — it is, in itself, a rather amazing work of art. The exterior walls are covered with Welty’s handmade terra-cotta tiles, thus creating a showroom of samples — an exhibition of what is possible with architectural clay applications. His work also includes tall vases and planters, heirloom dinnerware, whimsical folk sculpture, and custom pieces (including face jugs and pet dishes).

Early in 2005, at a meeting of the Asheville Area Arts Council, Welty met Margaret Nodine and Meg Manderson, a couple of Leicester-based artists. “We went to work rounding up what other artists lived and worked in Leicester and realized we had enough interest to initiate the Come to Leicester Studio Tour” — now a popular annual event.

The many tools of Welty’s trade
Photo by Colby Rabon

Asked what initially brought he and his wife to Leicester, though, Welty—without missing a beat—answers, “a red Ford pickup.” (His quick wit is another of his talents.)

Doc Welty, 45 Singletree Gap, Leicester, 828-713-5719, thepotterydoc.com, open by appointment and during the Come to Leicester Studio Tour happening Saturday, Aug. 20 and Sunday, Aug. 21, 10am-5pm. For a full list of participating artists and a map, see cometoleicester.org. Welty’s work is also sold at three retail venues of the Southern Highland Craft Guild: the Folk Art Center’s Allanstand Craft Shop in Asheville (Milepost 382 on the Blue Ridge Parkway), in Biltmore Village (26 Lodge St.), and at Moses Cone Manor in Blowing Rock (Milepost 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway), southernhighlandguild.org. He also sells work at Woolworth Walk (25 Haywood St., Asheville, woolworthwalk.com) and at OOAK (One of a Kind) Art Gallery, 573 Micaville Loop, Burnsville, ooakartgallery.com. 

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