Potter Spotlight: Duffy Baum

Potters working together in a mentoring relationship is an age old tradition that dates back thousands of years. It is my joy and honor to have been mentored by some great potters and to be a mentor in this season of my career. In this blog series, I am going to spotlight potters who study in our Study From Afar program (SFA) or on location in our Independent Study and Mentoring Program (ISM). 

Meet my friend and adventuresome potter, Duffy Baum. I have had the privilege to know and work with Duffy for over four years. We first met in 2017 when Duffy attended a Throwing Big workshop I taught here at The Village Potters Clay Center (TVPCC). A dear friendship and connection in clay was sparked and has grown over the years. 

Duffy Baum, clay adventurer

Duffy is one of a wonderful group of potters, from as far away as England, Canada, and Oregon, that are participating in our newly launched SFA Program here at TVPCC. I am excited to continue to work with Duffy, as she is a highly motivated learner and has clear and concise areas of interest. Though she lives here in the Asheville area, due to the pandemic, this SFA program has been a perfect way for her to collaborate with me from her home studio as she continues to add techniques to her skill set and explore her extensive design ideas. 

Duffy, a retired Washington D.C. real estate agent, has been actively making pots for over ten years. In that time, she has studied with a wide range of wonderfully talented potters. She began her pottery pursuits in LeMoyne Arts in Tallahassee FL. Upon moving to Asheville she studied glazing with Odyssey Clayworks’ owner and author of Amazing Glaze, Gabriel Kline, worked with sculptor and potter Mac McCusker, then throwing and firing with soda fire potter Linda McFarling, and has attended numerous workshops. In 2017, Duffy found us here at TVPCC and has studied with Judi Harwood, Julia Mann, and myself. Duffy is the perfect example of an intentional potter who seeks out relationship and instruction that is specific to her goals and aesthetic. 

Duffy working in her home studio

Duffy has been making pots primarily for practical use until now. “My preference has always been functional ware. Now, I’m developing sculptural elements into my functional ware and seeing where I can go with that.”, Duffy says when describing her newest work.

Some of Duffy’s Functional Pots from the past.

New Work: Deeply Recessed Fluted Bowl 
in Ocean Blue and White on Porcelain.

When speaking about her current work , Duffy says, “I try to create interest on the outside of the pot with depth. I do this through carving. The actual carving is so intimate. It’s like working with an instrument because I’m involved with one piece for so long.”

When speaking about the challenges in her process, Duffy said, “It is tricky to make these pieces without going through the walls and avoiding cracking. There is a lot of loss but I don’t mind.” I have had the privilege, along with Julia Mann, to help Duffy build a skill set that makes it possible for her to lean into her ideas. 

Going BIG on a pot in class with Julia Mann

Duffy Baum is a highly focused potter. She takes her current endeavors in clay to heart and pours herself into her work. Her work can be controlled and precise, or loose and organic. Her ability to choose a direction and explore it is what drives her passion. 

Duffy’s alternative atmosphere work

When I asked her why she was participating in the Study From Afar Mentoring Program, she said, “In some ways I feel you are a reflection of my work. I need the feedback. I go down into my studio and think about evaluating these pots together. Feedback is nurturing my critical eye.” Duffy’s words are a perfect description of what we do together.

Duffy and friends loading the Kazegama (Duffy, Emily, Karen)

Duffy definitely is a potter to watch. It’s fun to share in the journey with this adventuresome potter because you never know where she is going to go next . She is a joy to share this life with; passionate and focused but also quirky and funny. 

Myself and all who know Duffy, absolutely love her!

Sarah Wells Rolland
Founder and Ceramic Artist
The Village Potters Clay Center