Doe Rising



Article Published: Jan. 6, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Doe Rising

Meier, shown here, is now the owner and chief potter at Doe Ridge Pottery on King Street in Boone and he produces some of the most beautiful pottery around the High Country.

Photo by Lauren Ohnesorge



lauren@mountaintimes.com

One window.

While bars mask the glass, you can still see the flutter of bird wings from a suspended bird feeder.

Sunshine streams in, precious since it's the only natural light in a studio bustling with activity. It's a touch of wilderness off an unlikely location: King Street, and the wheel in front of it is carefully placed to let the light shine on the clay.

"I think it's metaphorical, don't you think?" he laughed, pointing to the bars.

He is Bob Meier, potter extraordinaire, and he can turn a block of earthen clay into a piece you'll never hide in a cabinet.

"I just like the symmetry of it," he said. "I like throwing on the wheel. I like the challenge of taking this amorphous blob of clay and turning it into something beautiful, and I like form and the texture of the clay better than I ever thought I would."

But it didn't start out that way.

In 1974, Meier had a problem.

The young former marine had already spent his G.I. bill revenue on rent, so he needed one more class to qualify for a full load. "Back then you had to stand in long lines," he said.

The only class that fit?

"Pottery," he said. "I figured, how hard could it be?"

With memories of Play-Doh running through his head, the then vocational education major took the plunge.

It's 2011, and Meier, now the owner and chief potter at Doe Ridge Pottery on King Street in Boone, hasn't looked back.

"Bob's very generous with his knowledge, and I don't think there's anyone in Boone who would disagree," Connie Cox said.

Cox has been working with Meier for seven years, first at the location near Dan'l Boone Inn, then, when the U.S. 421 widening project ousted the shop, at the Bead Box location on King Street.

With four part-time employees, Doe Ridge has come a long way from the one-car garage studio on Doe Ridge off Howard's Creek Road, where Meier started as a charter member of Hands Gallery.
That and craft shows are how Meier first started selling.

"I started making so many pots in school that my lab bill was outstripping my tuition, so I had to sell them," he said.

Ten years into his passion, a growing family meant less time selling on the road and more time in-studio. That's where the Doe Ridge garage came into play. Eventually, however, his family (two children and two stepchildren) outgrew the house. That's when Meier expanded to the storefront near Dan'l Boone Inn. Twenty-two years later, he had to move.

"They had been talking to us, the state, off and on for two and half years ... but they would never give us a date," he said.

Lulled into a false sense of security, Meier kept doing what he did best, throwing pots. It all changed a few years ago.

"They came in that spring, that March and said, 'All right, July 13th, you've got to be out of here,'" he said.

The widening project was officially under way. "I did panic a little bit," Meier said.

After exploring locations in Foscoe and Blowing Rock, Meier lucked out with the new location and started trucking his pots and equipment there, two years ago in May.

While he's seeing plenty of success at the new shop, it's not all about the locale. It's about the pieces.

"It's almost like sleight of hand," he said. "The clay is doing all the work, and someone is coaxing it along."

Meier's fascination with round forms is evidenced in the display cases at the front of the store.
"It takes a high level of skill and maybe some sense of design," he said.

It's that design that pushes many of his pieces to a classical level, reminiscent of museum Grecian urns, but with modern functionality.

Even so, to Meier, aesthetics usually take a back stage to function.

"If the handle is too small ... they'll use the mug a couple of times and put it in the back of the cabinet," he said.

And his pieces don't stay in the cabinet.

"Some people who want to make more artsy fartsy pots will sacrifice functionality for the design, which I don't subscribe to," he said. "I think the design problem or the design achievement should be can you make something that's aesthetically pleasing for someone who has no formal background in art? Can they relate to it on an emotional level?"

From his first "kick wheel" ("That was a lot of work," he said) in 1978, he's come a long way. Last year, Doe Ridge purchased 11 tons of clay, and 2011 promises to keep him throwing.

Friday at Art Crawl, he'll be demonstrating his throwing techniques at the gallery. Doe Ridge Pottery is located at 585 W. King St. For more information, call (828) 264-1127 or visit http://www.doeridgepottery.com.

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