SWAPPING GIGS: Sterling trades places with a potter - WDRB 41 Louisville News

SWAPPING GIGS: Sterling discovers the challenges behind a potter's wheel

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The skilled hands of Melvin Rowe, master potter and artist. The skilled hands of Melvin Rowe, master potter and artist.
Some of the finished pottery created by Melvin Rowe Some of the finished pottery created by Melvin Rowe
Sterling Riggs discovers just how hard it is to sit behind the potter's wheel Sterling Riggs discovers just how hard it is to sit behind the potter's wheel
Melvin Rowe in his shop on Frankfort Avenue. Melvin Rowe in his shop on Frankfort Avenue.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville potter has weathered the test and time and economy during the last 40 years.

Sterling Riggs swaps gigs with Louisville potter Melvin Rowe to learn the art of throwing clay and found out why you don't want a potter to put you in a headlock.

Stop in Rowe's shop on Frankfort Avenue and chances are you will catch him raising clay. It's a craft his been perfecting for more than four decades. A close look at one of his pieces reveals his personal style.

"I love the outdoors and most of my pieces are glazed with abstract landscapes. As a kid, I loved to make things. I would make things out of anything I could get my hands on like wood, wire hangers and oatmeal boxes," said Rowe.

Rowe channeled his boyhood passion into a Masters Degree in ceramics and pottery at the University of Louisville. That's where he learned to shape clay, but was not taught how to make a variety of sellable items to pay the bills. He learned the hard way how to come up with functional pieces that people will buy. Rowe's created everything from a cookie dunker to the perfect bacon cooker.

Rowe makes his craft look extremely easy, but don't let the master's calm demeanor deceive you. "Most people watch it and say, wow that looks relaxing. They don't notice how much pressure you are putting on it. You don't want a potter to put you in a headlock. There's a lot of upper body strength happening" said Rowe.

After watching the master at work, it was my turn on the potter's wheel. I set out to make a vase for my grandmother.

After about 15 minutes of fighting the clay and giving max effort, I ended up with an oddly shaped bowl.

Melvin Rowe has weathered multiple recessions to continue to do what he loves. He had this message for other aspiring potters. "If you've ever been camping and it thunderstorms and you went home, you won't make it. You've got to stand there and shake your fist and believe in yourself. I'm going to be a potter, I'm staying."

To find out more about Melvin Rowe and his art, CLICK HERE.

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