The path to CLT NC pottery was far from direct for Kaley Blank. Her first career was as a producer in the film industry – a role she found unfulfilling and impersonal. While living in Warsaw, Poland, Blank adopted a routine of regularly visiting a coffee shop. Along her route, she passed a woman-owned ceramics studio. Although she had no exposure or training in running a business or ceramics, each trip past the studio nudged her curiosity closer to action.
When she returned to the States, Blank signed up for a six-week pottery course. Ultimately, it was cut short due to COVID. Undeterred, Blank invested in her own pottery wheel. Soom, her dalliance with pottery turned into a full-blown obsession. By the spring of 2022, Blank had refined her craft and opened her own studio – Blank Ceramics – which is now her full-time career.
The Test of Time
For Blank, the pull toward pottery is twofold: creating art from nature and tapping into an ancient skill. Not only is clay, the raw ingredient of ceramics, pulled directly from the earth, but so too is Blank’s inspiration. “Whether it’s the color variation of hydrangea flowers, the texture of chiseled wood, or the reflective sheen of a trickling creek.” That inspiration is grounded in Blank’s understanding of her art form’s history. “Handmade pottery is one of the first human crafts,” explains Blank. “It feels so fulfilling to learn skills that our ancestors developed to create vessels for food and drink, as well as to display stories and art.”
Blank draws heavily on our ancestors’ regard for ceramics as both art and tool as she thinks about her craft. She ensures that functionality forever directs form. “When I think about how I will design the shape of a mug, for instance, I always think first about how it will be held in the hand and how it will feel to drink from. That to me is the first, most important detail,” says Blank. That philosophy, combined with her keen eye for simple color patterns and subtle textures, produces work that is reminiscent of Japanese or Scandinavian ceramics – elevated in its simplicity.
CLT NC Pottery: From Earth to Home
Of course, every piece first begins as a piece of clay. Typically, it’s Kentucky Mudworks and Laguna Clay – which Blank purchases locally from Carolina Clay Connection or Clayworks. Next, Blank wedges the clay to make it more pliable, remove any air bubbles, and ensure uniformity across the piece. She then throws the clay on her pottery wheel, giving recognizable shape to what was hitherto a lump of earth. Afterward, she trims to precisely remove excess areas of clay. The last steps in the process – bisque firing, glazing, and glaze firing – finalize the piece by ensuring its durability and adding color and finish.
Outside her studio, Blank’s finished pieces are available for purchase online (through her website and Instagram account); at select Charlotte businesses, such as Toccare Day Spa and Sorella Coffee; and at numerous pop-up markets.
As she looks toward the future and considers how her studio might expand, Blank has an entrepreneur’s eye. But as she considers what’s ahead for CLT NC pottery, she takes a far loftier view. “Once a ceramic piece is fired, it will last forever; it does not deteriorate over time as other mediums do. My work will far outlast me, and I think that is a really fascinating thing. It keeps me humble and intentional about what pieces I create.”