Sometimes, deepest desires are met as a means of exploration. What begins as curiosity can pave the way for a new path. That’s how it happened for Joe Sink.
What started out as his parents’ birthday gift of an evening pottery class became a newfound interest in clay. A Building Sciences major at Appalachian State University has the opportunity to take an elective class, and one of those electives can be a pottery class. Because he enjoyed the gift of the class so much, he signed up for another class with the same teacher. “I didn’t know I wanted to make pottery, I knew I just wanted to do it,” Joe recalls of his first experiences.
With a full school workload, there wasn’t much time left for additional classes, but he was able to work out a mutually beneficial situation with the pottery professors. On Wednesday mornings, he swept and mopped the studio, and helped tidy up. In exchange, he was essentially granted free reign of the studio when no classes were in session. He recalls this time with gratitude; resources such as access to the studio’s kilns, wheels, glazes and tools were available to him at the ready. Joe began to study successful artists’ work, working to imitate the signs of mastery at the wheel.
Joe was making functional pieces that made sense in his everyday life. “I made mugs… so many mugs,” he says of his earliest work in homage to his relationship with coffee. The first time he sold his work was in the Student Union at App State, in a student store set up by the business school’s entrepreneur program. He observed during this experience, where he sold around 40 pots that year, what kinds of pots sell: the type of vessel, the best size, the most desirable colors. His thinking shifted from simply wanting to make pots—to wondering just how one goes about selling pots to make a living.
Following graduation, Joe assisted a class at Penland School for the Arts, where his desire to be a potter deepened. He brushed shoulders with a variety of potters, and besides gaining knowledge by watching them work, Joe picked their brains. He’d ask them practical questions, like: How many pots do you need to make a day to make a living? He continued to reach out to various potters he admired, exchanging knowledge for work.
After being exposed to wood firing at Penland, Joe wanted to continue firing his work in this way and build an “anagama” kiln. At the suggestion from friends, he used the platform Kickstarter to raise funds to build his first kiln, which he did with his father. Joe was equally shocked as ecstatic to find that his $8,000 project was funded in 30 days, which he repaid in pots to his supporters. He promised all of the pots by Christmas, and though it was a challenge between working for a homebuilder in Durham and going to his studio space and kiln in Winston Salem on the weekends, he got them all finished and delivered by the holiday.
Just last year, Joe was working full time for the home builder, but he knew he wanted to keep making pots. His big question was “How”? After searching for studio space around the Triangle, he landed on a beautiful opportunity at a pottery studio and gallery space called Cedar Creek in Creedmoor. Joe slowly transitioned from his home building full-time job to part-time work, and then, in December, he realized his dream of making pots full time.
This was literally a leap of faith for both Joe and his new wife Allie, who married last October. “I have faith that God will provide, just as He promises… ‘His children are never found lacking or wanting bread.’ I don’t want to have this all mapped out, I want to be totally dependent on Him,” Joe says with conviction. And, they don’t have it mapped out. But one thing is for certain, you’ll find him on the map; whether selling his pots on Saturdays at the Farmer’s Market in Durham, around Cedar Creek Gallery, or you may find his work on the table holding your meal at Elliott’s on Linden in Pinehurst. Check out his work, and perhaps you can find him in your cupboard, too.
Joe’s work can be found at JoeSinkPottery.com.