I grew up in the mountains of North Central West Virginia. The visually chaotic and rough landscape surrounded my parents carved out homestead; and instilled in me a profound appreciation for nature.
I’ve always been innately attracted to the physical nature of working with clay materials and completion of process. While discovering residues of previous man-made assemblages such as old fences, pottery shards and glass bottles, I developed a link to the past and need to create objects that would withstand time beyond my existence.
My earliest childhood memories are of dark soil squishing between my toes as I gathered tomatoes from the garden, sculpting sand houses, and playing with clay. During the spring and early summer months, the road grader’s metal blade would slice the roadside revealing fresh deposits of white and red earthenware. The early morning hours were best for playing in the clay. My Grandmother Ilene owned a ceramics studio and I would proudly transport my pinch pots for her inspection. She produced thousands of slip cast wares and taught classes. Because of her, I literally grew up with a brush in my hand. I spent years of my young life becoming lost in the ceramic surface which explains my never ending need today for ornamentation. It has taken me years to find restraint, sometimes I give in to this urge and other times I pull back.
Early in my career, I traveled extensively throughout China before its ancient ways were lost and modernization took over. No words can describe the impact those summers spent making pottery there had on me as young potter. To say I learned “rhythm” would be an understatement. All of my travels combine in my work and show themselves in whispers, not direct imitation. I am not a folk potter because of my classical training but I am easily inspired or deterred by my environment.
Today, I am a studio potter living in North Carolina. I draw inspiration from the old homesteads; the Piedmont region’s red dirt, fall colors found along the Blue Ridge Mountains and local folk and Native American pottery traditions. Living on a farm, I find pure enjoyment watching animals interact while going about their daily habits. They become characters in my stories. They are my personal icons symbolizing moments or moods in my life. The chicken represents fertility and knows before any other animal when danger is near. The squirrel symbolizes abundance and gathering. Rabbits are fearful but always in a hurry, they represent the future. Blue birds are happy, deer quick and graceful, horses are strong and endure and foxes are clever and adapt well. Different animals turn up on my pots as the seasons change and my life evolves.
I enjoy making specialized objects adorned with animals and foliage that have nothing to do with necessity but are utilitarian in their own right. If only for a brief moment, these objects aid in daily activities before becoming part of the day to day backdrop as life transpires. In my home, the kitchen is the center of all activity. Handmade pottery is used daily and symbolizes conscious cooking, eating and even cleaning up with friends and family. Little moments accumulate overtime and although they carry my narrative, another kind of narrative is placed on these objects in a way that could never be achieved if left unused, sitting on a shelf. It is only after a lifetime of usage that the pots truly become powerful family heirlooms, evoking a lifetime of stories connected to its users through memory and experience.
Courtney Long received her BFA from West Virginia University in 1999. On two separate study abroad trips in 1998 and 2000; she studied traditional stoneware and porcelain techniques across China. She received a MFA from Syracuse University in 2004 and interned at the Everson Museum of Art, co-coordinating “100 years of American Ceramics”, exhibited at the Paine Webber Gallery, New York, NY.
She has continued educational experiences from Penland School of Crafts, Penland, North Carolina, Santa Fe Clay, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Anderson Ranch in Trelawney, Jamaica, and Art School of the Aegean, Samos, Greece.
In 2005, she was appointed Western Piedmont Community College’s Professional Crafts Coordinator, located in Morganton, North Carolina. Courtney oversees all continuing education and curriculum coursework in Wood, Clay, and Metal Sculpture/Blacksmithing. These programs offer crafts marketing and enterprise courses in addition to a vast array of studio courses.
In 2009, Courtney was named a GlaxoSmithKline fellow with NC State University’s Institute for Emerging Issues. The fellowship was designed to work on economic development through “creativity.” She collaborates with several local business, community leaders and non-profits to revitalize and expand Burke County’s placed-based crafts economy and in the process, organized the county’s first artist incubator located in Drexel, North Carolina.
Courtney is the recipient of several grants including a North Carolina Blue Ridge Heritage Grant. She is the founder of the Joara Pottery festival, a fundraiser to support the Exploring Joara Foundation that sponsors public involvement in foothills archaeology.
Courtney lives and pots on a horse farm located in the Chesterfield community with her husband; horse Rosie, and two Blue Heelers. She enjoys watching her pets and wildlife on the farm turning them into personal icons symbolizing moments or moods in her life.
~ Visit the gallery to see our full collection of Courtney Long pottery. ~