He loves throwing the “big pots” of North Carolina folk tradition
On any given day, “Rob the Potter” Withrow can be found throwing on the wheel, kiln sitting, or teaching others about the rich traditions of southern folk pottery. He is well known for the “big pots” he loves to throw and for his generous and fun-loving nature. His signature pieces are large, human-sized face jugs with smiles as big and infectious as his own.
“Pots are like people,” Rob likes to say. “Each one is unique and none of them are perfect.”
Fleeing the snowy peaks of Colorado, the artist lived in Florida for 10 years working as a fisherman and captain of a shark boat. In 1993, he got an old wheel and kiln and his interest in clay was born. He took classes at the John C. Campbell Folk School, where he would later become the Clay Studio Assistant and a frequent pottery instructor. He became an avid student and fan of North Carolina pottery and fell so in love with the history of the region’s folk potters, that he moved to the Blue Ridge Mountain community of Brasstown to open his own studio.
On a visit to Smoke in the Mountains Pottery, you will see beautifully glazed crocks and cookware, whimsical face mugs and jugs, life-sized piggy banks and other “big pots.” You may even see stoneware in rare colors that the artist mixes up himself, like deep dark reds and Brasstown Gold. The studio hosts Face Mug Parties to introduce others to the joys of clay. Rob donates pots to local charities and teaches workshops at public schools.
At Smoke in the Mountain Pottery in Brasstown, Rob Withrow is living his dream as a folk potter and sharing his passion for clay. Purchase finely crafted pottery right from the source, following signs from Settawig Road to the end of the road.
Visitors may be lucky enough to arrive when the community-built wood kiln is fired up. Holding over 700 vessels, the kiln needs to be stoked with wood every three to five minutes for about 30 hours straight. Firing the kiln is a big community event.
Despite the hard work, Rob says he would be happy to throw clay for the rest of his life and when his time comes, you can cremate him in his big kiln and save his ashes for the next wood firing.
Until then, he will be in his studio in Brasstown, telling folks about the wonders of clay.