10 Years Ago on Ras Grooms Road

Jan 10, 2020 • Alex Matisse

Alex outside the wood-fired kiln.

Alex outside the wood-fired kiln.

"We contemplated the cosmic absurdity that two people from such different worlds would find themselves together in this little clearing in the woods, listening to the wind and snow. We were alone in a strange dreamscape, and life felt new and wild and sweet and full of possibility."
Connie here. I missed the boat that last week in December when everyone was posting 2009/2019 side-by-sides, but the other night I was bouncing our two-year-old on an exercise ball at 3 am with Billie Eilish’s “Ocean Eyes” on repeat and found myself Google searching for a blog Alex kept in his early twenties, first as an apprentice and then as he set out to open his own pottery. It’s a gem.

A little context if you’re a new subscriber—today East Fork is a 70-person team working out of 30,000 square feet in Asheville, North Carolina (this article paints a pretty accurate picture). But 10 years ago, Alex was staring out at a muddy, neglected tobacco field, through the window of our dilapidated farmhouse, scribbling pencil sketches of what would later that year become a 36-foot long woodburning kiln and a timber-framed kiln shed. 

For our own 2009 Flashback moment, I asked Alex to read his posts from ten years ago and indulge in a little nostalgia...
10 Years Ago, on Ras Grooms Road The winter of 2010 was record breaking in Western North Carolina. I hadn’t seen snow like that since I’d left Massachusetts, where I grew up, six years ago. It snowed and snowed, which worked out for us, really, because we were felling trees and pulling them out of the woods to build the original kiln shed that would house the large wood-kiln that we’d build the following summer.

A friend and accomplished timber framer named Raivo Vihman had come down from Maine to cut the frame. We cut all the timber for the structure off of the steep hillside that surrounded the old tobacco field at the end of Ras Grooms Rd. Then we sawed it on site into beams and posts, rafters and collar ties.
Two images stacked like postcards. One with a many running with two horses up a hill in the woods, and the other a snow-covered house where East Fork Pottery began.

Friends would drop in to help. Our neighbor Glen drove his old Massey Furgeson up the road to haul logs out of the woods. It was the first tractor I learned to drive.

At night, Connie and I would sit in the little farmhouse by the wood-stove watching the flames roll silently across the glass. When we got sleepy, we would climb the dark staircase to a small bedroom we’d painted red. With a candle lit, it was womblike. Most nights we’d stare at the ceiling, just six and a half feet tall, and wonder how the hell we both got there. We could hear the rats, mice and squirrels—who made our house their own in winter—scurrying through the walls and kitchen cabinets. Sometimes I would wake in the middle of the night confused and disoriented, unsure of where I was or who was sleeping beside me.

Clockwise from the top: Installing the recycled metal roof onto the kiln shed.  Choosing brick from the overruns at a brick plant in Birmingham, Alabama.  Drilling holes in a large rock which was discovered where the chimney foundation needed to go.

We contemplated the cosmic absurdity that two people from such different worlds would find themselves together in this little clearing in the woods, listening to the wind and snow. We were alone in a strange dreamscape, and life felt new and wild and sweet and full of possibility.

— Alex Matisse



Comments (1)

  • Kirk Fisher & Laura MacDonald

    We are so glad we were able to visit you at the Rams Grooms Road location! On our way home from visiting relatives in Hendersonville /Brevard and just as you were starting to experiment with the new kiln.
    We still tell friends and visitors that we own a Matisse!

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