For Kernersville resident Valerie Hill, creating with clay on a potter’s wheel started as a way to relieve stress. Today, throwing clay is still a great stress reliever, but Hill has also developed her talent into a style that is uniquely hers over the years.
Hill grew up in Portage, Ind., and said she had taken pottery courses before, but it wasn’t until she moved to the area and was browsing through antique shops in Greensboro that she ran across someone who could teach her as an adult. That person was Jim Gutsell, a pottery teacher who has since retired.
“He was my teacher and would teach classes in downtown Greensboro,” said Hill.
As her interest in the art progressed, Hill began doing pottery at her home in Kernersville. Her husband even converted an old barn on their property into a studio for Hill. It wasn’t long before Hill was participating in a couple of pottery shows a year.
Today, Hill is president of the Carolina Clay Guild and continues to show her work either at area shows or by opening her studio gallery to friends and family by invitation twice a year.
“I like the art about it,” Hill said when asked what it was about pottery that so intrigued and interested her. “I like to decorate it. I get to be more creative when I get to decorate it.”
Decorate her work, she does. Hill’s pieces often have designs on them, from the face jugs she creates or a simple dragonfly on a vase to elaborate masks made of clay or interestingly designed wine bottle chillers.
“I really like the faces,” said Hill. “The masks are a lot of fun to make, too.”
No two pieces are alike in Hill’s studio and gallery.
“Every piece is one of a kind,” she said.
Fans of Hill’s work began with friends and family. When she first began making large quantities of pieces, Hill would take them to work just to give them away, she laughed. Her co-workers told her she should be selling her pieces, not giving them away.
“They told me, you should be selling this, and I replied, well make me an offer,” recalled Hill.
The Kernersville potter has certainly seen more expensively priced clay pieces, but said she has never been interested in making a profit. It is, after all, a hobby for Hill. She still makes plenty of pieces to give away as gifts.
“I have always considered this a hobby, not my living,” said Hill.
Working with clay has also always been a great stress reliever for Hill.
“That’s why I started, to relax and get my mind off things,” said Hill. “Working on the wheel makes your mind go somewhere else and lets you just get out of the regular stresses. It’s great when you can just smash it up and start all over. There are no mistakes,” she confided.
Hill takes part in four or five shows a year and was recently featured on an area television news segment as part of its coverage of the Eden Pottery show. She has a mailing list for those who would like to know when her own shows at her gallery are.
“I have one in the spring and one in the fall. I send out my mailing list and some people come and some people don’t,” she laughed.
Hill’s fall show is always held the first Saturday and Sunday in November. She provides refreshments and lets everyone browse through her studio and gallery. Those who might be interested in being added to Hill’s mailing list can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.