GEP Artist


Ceramics artist

Preston Tolbert

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"When I work with wet clay I like to explore the nature of movement. The clay resists and reacts to my hands, recording every touch, rip, and cut. I like to make a new clean form, then attack it to give it age and depth.

I am drawn to the earliest stoneware pots from China. I remember one particular vessel that had a beautiful fullness. It had the most subtle natural ash glaze, but what struck me was the small fingerprint near the foot. It was a 2200 year old impression from a unknown craftsman. That idea bleeds into my work in the form of meandering spirals that to me are my fingerprints.

As I fire a wood kiln, I think of it as a trial; an endurance test for the objects inside. It is almost like a time machine. The clay can endure days of heat and ash and emerge not only intact, but with an ancient quality that is impossible to achieve otherwise. In some ways the clay objects I make are just canvasses on which I paint with ash, coals, and fire." — PT

Preston Tolbert is a full time artist working in Old Fort, NC. He studied ceramics at Western Carolina University under Professor Joan Byrd. While at WCU he met his wife Sara Tolbert, also a potter. After graduation they moved to Arizona to apprentice to Don Reitz, one of the most influential ceramists worldwide. While in Arizona, Preston learned the intricacies of sustained wood firing along with many other skills and techniques.

After moving back to North Carolina in 2010, they built a kiln and started producing work. Preston has given workshops at Blue Ridge Community College, Southwestern Community College, Wilmington’s Orange Street Clay Center, and McDowell Arts Council. He also did a week long summer workshop at Western Carolina University and a two week long kiln building workshop here at the Jackson County Green Energy Park. Preston and Sara currently maintain Hemlock Pottery in downtown Old Fort.