The Ron Philbeck Story | Ron Philbeck | Episode 815

Ron Philbeck | Episode 815

Ron Philbeck is a potter specializing in wheel thrown, sodium vapor glazed pottery. The limited production and one of a kind pots are created at Ron’s studio in Shelby, N.C. Ron believes that pots should be well made, pleasant to look at, and easy to use. Ron’s work can be found in collections and kitchens around the world.


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You mentioned that you’ve got squirrel syndrome. If you weren’t a soda guy, what kind of pottery do you think you would be chasing down if you hadn’t discovered soda?

I think I would probably be doing something with some color. And by color I guess I mean, you know, maybe some more intense, like majolica or some low temperature thing where you really have to have some skill and technique to get all that stuff to come out of the kiln and look beautiful. For a long, long time I have always said I am really afraid of color. And it took me a long time to put even that yellow or that blue, kind of that dark bluish black slip on  a pot. You know, when I would try to do things with color it would look like a three year old and you got the box of eight crayons, red, blue, green, yellow, and nothing in between, that was sort of my mentality with color theory. But I think I would probably be doing something like that or maybe some kind of chunky, crunchy, grungy, big, crazy things. I don’t know.

What has you excited right now in the studio?

You know, it’s kind of fun to see where each kind of kiln load leads because I spend some time in my sketchbook every day, drawing and writing ideas down and stuff like that, so new things come along with each batch of pots. So just recently I started looking at some older drawings and some older cartoons and different animals and things. It’s just exciting to think about…I just don’t know what’s going to be next.  I can’t do the same thing for a whole year, you know, over and over again. (laughter) Something new will come along and something else will drop out. I am making some jars that I really like and I am always excited to make a better handle. It’s nothing really huge. It’s just like this slow progress of pulling the work or pushing the work or carrying the work along this little path.

What’s got you challenged in the studio right now?

That scale thing has me challenged. And you know the other challenge for me is just keeping up with the pots because when the pots are ready , they are ready. I do a lot of work at the leather hard stage and so that has always been a challenge. I sort of live my life around the pottery cycle.

Do you have any ridiculous goals?

I don’t know, no, I don’t think I do. I probably should have some but I don’t really have any ridiculous goals. I might after we get off of here. (laughter)

Are you a messy maker or a neaty maker, nice and neat?

I’m a little messy. I am not super messy and I have a threshold, right, so when things get to a point where I can not stand it I have to stop and I have what I call the big reset. And the studio gets tidied up and things get put back in their proper place, everything gets organized and I get back to it. I am not a clean thrower, I wipe my hands on my pants and I have  messy apron and all that business. I don’t know who said it but it was a potter and he said, Thank goodness I wasn’t a surgeon because I would be in surgery wiping my bloody hands all over my scrubs. That’s me to a tee with clay on my butt, you know. (laughter)

What makes Ron Philbeck smile first thing in the morning?

Oh! What make s me smile, and I am glad that you said first thing in the morning because years ago I read something by some monk or Buddhist writing that just talked about waking up and smiling. I mean it’s funny that you asked that because that has sort of been a practice of mine that has stuck with me. So I just try to smile no matter what, (laughter) first thing in the morning anyway because I think it kind of gets me off on the right start. But when I wake up I am usually on my left side and we have this big picture window in our upstairs bedroom that looks out into this grove of trees and then on into this field beyond our house, so usually I will wake up and look out that view. I have had that sort of long distance gaze ever since I was a child because I grew up on this big farm and we had these big wheat fields. So when I wake up and look off into that kind of distance and see those trees and see the sun coming up from the other side of the house and I smile then that sort of I think gets my brain ready for the day.



Instagram: @ronphilbeck

Angelia S. Rico

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