Retired and Refired: A New Season for George Rolland

George hiking on the Bluff of Cayman Brac

George Rolland, my husband, is my favorite person! He is a thinker, he is a brilliant, quiet, gentle, and highly skilled man. Truthfully, George is the kindest man I have ever met and he has just retired after a 30-year career working in Information Technology. Leaving his current position as Director of Information at Haywood Community College was not easy for him. This is mostly due to the fact that he loves the people he worked with. He dedicated years of his life to education and has mentored so many young people in their education and career path in IT. 

George with some of his team during his HCC years!

This past week, I attended a celebration breakfast for George at the college where he has worked for over 25 years! During the breakfast a colleague of his shared this during his tribute, “Everyone should have a George!” Well, it is true, everyone should. He is loyal, hard working and makes it a point to know and understand the people he shares life with. If only everyone could have a George, but that would be impossible, because he is truly one of a kind.

That’s George at the top of a tower doing, well, I have no idea what he is doing,
but it is a day in his life. 

George has fully supported and worked with me on every idea and venture I have embarked upon for the last 40+ years. He and a group of our best friends built my first studio in the early 90’s. It took several years, but he and those friends stayed on it. George never wavered doing the work at night and on the weekends. I worked in this beautiful studio (pictured below) for over 20 years.

My Home Studio that George Built

George works tirelessly and will be last to take any credit. However, if you’ve been around me much at all then you know I share his remarkableness all the time. He has stuck by me throughout my journey in clay from the beginning to today. He does not make pots (yet), but he does almost everything else. I am truly a blessed woman!

George and me in the winter of 2004 

For the last 10 years he has been fully committed 40+ hours a week to his full-time professional career. However, he has spent countless off-hours behind-the-scenes making The Village Potters Clay Center a beautiful, fully equipped, and well functioning clay center.  

The Village Potters Clay Center, now in its 10th year, is a healthy, thriving creative community. I believe it is the premier clay center in the Southeastern United States and much of the reason for its success is because of George! I don’t say that lightly. I say it because of the hard work and dedication that he has consistently carried toward its purpose and vision. The Center has required a commitment and resilience I don’t think any of us knew we had, except for George, who has never doubted, wavered, quit, and remarkably never complained.

George building an extension for another kiln  
               George helping Potter, Tracy Hawkins, a former student, problem solve a kiln problem for “Safe Water Now” in Africa
George’s most recent project: Creating an incubator studio for emerging potters.
My cute George borrowing either mine or Karen Dubois” lady glasses!

The Village is run daily by a group of seven amazing women and one amazing man, George. 

Top Row: Judi Harwood, Lori Theriault, Christine Henry
Front Row: George Rolland
, Sarah Wells Rolland, Katie Meili Messersmith,
Lindsey Mudge, Julia Mann

When George and I first gazed upon the space that would later become The Village Potters Clay Center, I carried the idea, the plan, and the vision, but George could visualize and implement the entire space. When George and I signed the lease to the first 5000 square feet, it was awful. The facility was greasy, dirty, and lacked many of the basic needs for functioning studios and gallery. 

Before George
After George

I was concerned, but George knew what needed to be done and how to do it. The space needed a complete washing, major dismantling of bad construction, and removal and install of many things like lighting, sinks and plumbing, sump pumps to pump the water out, walls, power for kilns, controlled air, and so much more. George could see it, he could build it, and he wanted the project. 

The first stage took 8 months of constant work all the while he remained fully engaged in his career and work at Haywood Community College. He worked nights and weekends in the studios. I wanted to hire much of the work out, but we simply did not have the budget for such things. George kept reminding me that if he could do it, he would. We hired the work that the city of Asheville required, but you know who did the rest!

The space in 2011 before it became our Teaching Center
Our Teaching Center today

Fast forward 11 years and we are now a Village beyond anyone’s imagination and every part of our mission and purpose has grown and we are thriving. Our community works every day at impacting the lives of so many highly engaged creative people and those just beginning their creative pursuits. 

George with Lindsey, our Director of Operations, ISM Students and Amazing Apprentices

Over the years, George has continued to do all the renovations and let me tell you, there have been a lot! We expanded multiple times and now we are at 14,000 square feet. George also has designed and built kilns, as well as much of the humdrum daily maintenance and repairs.

George with friend and neighbor, Todd Cressman as they partner in this kiln project
George and me with the his Prototype Rolland Kiln finished and ready to give it a test run

All this while George has was giving his full attention to his IT team and needs at the college, then hopping over to TVP and doing the same. After many, many years of this it is now time for a new chapter. It can be sad and emotional to say goodbye to such a large chapter of one’s life, but he is looking forward to having a more balanced life, focusing on the variety of exciting opportunities in his shop here at TVP. It is my honor to witness and share in his life experience, seeing so much passion, creativity, ingenuity, and commitment from him continues to be astounding.

George gone camping

Now, as his retirement has officially begun, George’s future is whatever he chooses to make it. He is retired, but he will be refired by spending many of his days (not nights) with us at The Village Potters Clay Center. This is an exciting time for George, myself, and our community.

George can make pots. That’s his teabowl!

George and I have been together now for forty three years now. I could write a memoir on all the amazing things he and I have done together. We are a great team. We have fun together whether we are working together or traveling, camping, hanging with our kids and grandkids. He has a well deserved rest coming to him, but I suspect he will be rested up and into something cool in three to six weeks!

Beyond The Village Potters Clay Center, George loves to sail and has been planning to get back to that for 40 years. He is a mathematician and an inventor. He has designed and built a prototype for a beautiful portable downdraft gas kiln that we now call the Rolland Kiln. 

I know I will enjoy sharing in and witnessing whatever George is up to with his new found freedom. Whatever he does it will be challenging, interesting, and fun!

George and I with our grandkids 
George and me

Written by:
Sarah Wells Rolland