Township10 is the vision of Marjorie Dial, a studio artist whose practice includes ceramic sculpture, print-making, and writing.
QUESTION: You bought this property two years ago. People have been curious what brought you to the area?
MARJORIE DIAL: I grew up in the South and am now based in Portland, OR. My parents still live in SC. We spent the summers not far from here in the Cowee Mountains. That area holds all of these childhood memories for me––of digging in the dirt, tromping around the woods, and unending box turtles. Those were years where I felt free, unprogrammed. As I became an artist, my connection to that girl and these mountains became even more significant.
Q: How long have you been planning to create a residency?
MD: Good question. I almost bought a pottery in 2016 for this same purpose. It was in Blue Hill, Maine––really beautiful, a giant rambling house for sale for a low price. The old Rowantrees Pottery. It operated for decades and, tragically, the environmental inspection revealed that the land and buildings were poisoned from lead glazes. You couldn’t have a garden there or kids. I walked away and put the idea of starting a residency on the back burner.
Q: What made you want to start an artists’ residency?
MD: My life was completely changed by becoming an artist. It was as if my DNA got rearranged--there has been this upwelling of energy, intensity, and affection. I found a vessel for all that. My best friend jokes that Township10 is a love letter, one that needs a secret decoder. She's not entirely wrong.
Intellectually, I'm engaged with what happens when people work side-by-side and informally share ideas. I learned this way at Oregon College of Art and Craft, Ash Street Project, and Center for Contemporary Ceramics in Long Beach. With residency, you add the intimacy of meals and conversation about influences, dreams, fears, relationships––our humanity. I'm way more interested in artist's lives and experiences than in any resume or ambition.
Q: How did you know that it was the right spot?
MD: I feel really fortunate to have taken on this property from East Fork Pottery. The studios and kiln shed that Alex built are exquisite. Every sightline, every detail, every corner is poetic. He's an artist. I relate to him being out here in the beginning––with a dream, a passion for clay, and perhaps some trepidation.
Honestly, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had driven down Bone Camp Road and met a lonely potter slogging it out. Instead, I found a place that was vibrant, full-throttle, populated with committed makers. It was pretty much proof of concept.
Q: What have been some challenges so far?
MD: I’ve gotten the question a few times, “Which potter are you married to?” (ie. who is the man behind all this). Ha! I get it. It must be unusual, and it is meaningful, to be woman-owned and woman-run––to carve out a space like this. I’m definitely not doing it alone––a group of people from Asheville and Marshall have been supportive, and the Long-term Resident, Kyle Lawson, is 100% invested. That’s been appreciated. I’ll say it is challenging to navigate a new place though. You can’t really rush things.
Q: Have there been any big surprises?
MD: Yes, a big surprise––a gift really––has been reconnecting with my parents and brother. I’ve made my dad’s past two birthdays after missing many. My mom will show up at Township10 with books on the history on North Carolina and (unsolicited;) advice. My brother, an electronics nerd, repaired an old record player and speakers as a gift for the cottage. It’s all small and meaningful at the same time.
Another surprise has been people saying “yes.” For a long time I was afraid to pursue something like this. There was a lot of fear. I believe that we hold ourselves back, create our own prisons. A big realization has been that fear never really goes away, you just do things anyway. The yeses that we’ve gotten from future residents, advisors, collaborators has been unexpected. It feels good.
Q: What are you most looking forward to?
MD: There has been an extended period of developing the property. It took time. I’m looking forward to people being here and activating the spaces! Enough build-up. I don’t want to see any more photographs of Township10 that are beautiful yet devoid of people and activity. It needs to be used and enjoyed. Activation is what I’m looking forward to the most.
Q: How much time will you be spending at Township10?
MD: I don’t live here full-time. I am based in Portland, OR. Almost all of the residents will be here when I am not here. They will have the compound to themselves with the support of Kyle. I plan to block off 3 months a year for myself to work and host friends/colleagues. I’ll be here as an Invited Artist for the Woodfire NC Mountain Pre-HEAT and then my first long stint is this fall (yes I grabbed the most beautiful time of year). I’ll be here for two months. By that time, 10 artists will have already experienced a residency here.
Q: What are you working on now in the studio?
MD: I’ve been in a transition after graduate school: setting up a studio in OR and working on launching Township10 in NC. I expected to start cranking out ceramic sculptures, but my energy (which I follow) has been toward an installation. It’s based on a series of objects that broke free from my body in a dream. The kicker is that they might be glass so am learning about that process.
I also write short stories and poetry. Writing has been adjacent to my core practice of object-making but now it’s a focus. I’m taking a year-long workshop with the author Sarah Sentilles.