“I just love to make something useful and beautiful with my own two hands,” explains potter Amy Wandless. “It is even more thrilling when a pot that came from my eye and my hands appeals to the eyes and hands of someone who lives with it, uses it and loves it.” Amy will display her functional pottery the first two weekends in December in the 2020 Chatham Studio Tour. New to the Tour, Amy and her woodworking husband Greg moved to their new home in Chatham’s Cedar Grove neighborhood in June of 2020 and built side-by-side studios.
Amy primarily uses a wheel to make porcelain and stoneware pottery which is then fired in either a gas-fueled salt kiln or an electric kiln. When she’s not throwing on the wheel, Amy handbuilds, as well. She mixes many of her own glazes. “My education is in Geological Sciences which provides me an understanding of the clays and glazes used in ceramic arts,” she notes. She earned a B.S. in Geology at William and Mary and an M.S. in Geological Sciences at the University of Tennessee. “I relish unearthing the hidden potential in a ball of moist clay and guiding its transformation into a final piece that is attractive and functional,” she adds.
Amy has been working with clay for over 20 years. “I’ve always enjoyed making artwork, starting with childhood painting lessons supported by wonderful parents who appreciated nature and art,” she remembers. She has experimented with drawing, painting, calligraphy, glass fusing and other art forms. She had some initial experience with clay, but a chance opportunity while working for the federal government precipitated her life as a potter:
I was fortunate to get to witness a space shuttle launch for a mapmaking mission sponsored by my agency. Four of us friends drove down to Cocoa Beach, Florida in the spring of 2000. We had a wonderful time, hanging out together and watching the absolutely moving and exciting shuttle launch. The drive from our home in Virginia was almost 14 hours one-way, so we friends in the vehicle had a lot of time to talk. One friend pointedly asked ‘Amy, when are you going to do what you said you were going to do?’ What she meant was: when was I going to seriously work on becoming a potter? Well, I responded to that challenge and signed up for my first wheelthrowing class as soon as we returned home. I loved that first class so much I took many more classes over the next ten years to develop my skills. My ultimate goal was to make useful and beautiful pottery.
Amy has also studied pottery extensively at Penland School of Craft, Haystack School of Crafts, and Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. Her award-winning work has appeared in publications like Clay Times and 500 Pitchers, Contemporary Expressions of a Classic Form. She and her husband have participated in numerous craft shows in the Mid-Atlantic region, but the restrictions of the COVID pandemic have temporarily curtailed the craft show circuit. She is currently concentrating on her debut in the Chatham Studio Tour. Amy’s pottery ranges in price from $20 to $150. Her work can be viewed online at www.wandlesscrafts.com.
“The thrill and excitement of sharing the results of my work is a delightful part of making functional pottery,” she stresses. “I respect the bond between maker and user.”
Visitors to this year’s Chatham Studio Tour will be able to see and purchase Amy’s attractive and functional ceramic art at Wandless Crafts Studios.