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Robert Alewine began potting in 1973 and confesses he's always been an art guy.
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Among the mugs and vases you'll find the bacon cookers. And yes, they fly off the shelves.
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His signature maple leaf can be found on most of his work. "People won't let us quit. I'll make a pot without a leaf and I'll sell 10 with leaves before I sell one without."
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Each potter understands how to get the "image" of the leaf. Each leaf is different, unique and picked from the maple trees in the Smoky Mountains.
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Alewine works with apprentices in his gallery to teach his craft.
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Does it [potting] help with stress? "I don't know if it does or not. It helps with stress but it also creates the stress."
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"In the early stages of learning to make pottery, it was very frustrating. It was very hard; you're dripping clay off the wheel. You're slamming it off the wall. You're screaming and cussing like a sailor."
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"My definition of pottery is working class art. It's more than just art. Working class people won't justify spending the money unless it has a function. It can't just sit there."
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"I hope people that come to the shop recognize our difference. To have to tell you probably would mean I failed. If you can recognize the difference in what I do, the pot has done its job."
It is early morning, and the fog is lifting off the Smoky Mountains. On Glades Road in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, there's a string of artisans from one end of the winding road to the other; my stop this morning will be Alewine Pottery to meet Robert Alewine. From Sevierville, my GPS takes me the scenic (or rather, "where the heck am I") route. Boogertown Road, Powdermill Creek. Shorter in distance than the main route through Gatlinburg, the curvy mountain roads delays my arrival time.
Having been told that Alewine is an early riser, I knew he would be waiting.
The gallery sits around a curve of Glades Road, in a building which has expanded over the years. Shelves display his work, his vision of mugs, bowls, even bacon cookers, most with the signature Alewine maple leaf. He walks toward me, hand outstretched sporting an electric smile. I take his hand and it's not the greeting or the introduction I remember; it's the size and softness of his hands.
There’s excitement each time I interview strangers. Like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates, “You never know what you’re gonna get.” With Robert Alewine, it was simple. The unexpected is that we hailed from the same part of northern Georgia; the expected, that his passion for pottery is only exceeded by his passion for his family. A great combination and two that intersect each time he gets his hands dirty.
Judy and Len Garrison are at home in Farmington, Georgia, just on the outskirts of Dawg country - better known as Athens. Len, an IT manager for a major Atlanta company, and Judy, an editor, author and travel writer, invite you to travel along with them as they explore the best of the South. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit their website at Seeing Southern, and follow them on Twitter at @judyhgarrison, @seeing_southern, LIKE them on Facebook and on Instagram.