Ali Flegel creates studio at grandfatherﾒs home, returns to roots
For most college students, summer vacation is either a time to make a little extra cash or a time to relax and sleep until noon. For Ali Flegel, this summer vacation has given her the opportunity to ﾓreturn to her rootsﾔ and have her own pottery studio at her grandfatherﾒs home near Cass.
Flegelﾒs love for pottery began in high school, when art teacher Roselyn Leary exposed her to clay and the pottery wheel.
ﾓShe made it look so easy and I was definitely drawn to the wheel,ﾔ she said.
After three years of art in high school and undergrad study at Radford University in Radford, Virginia, Flegel was given the opportunity to do a summer program with world-renowned potter Regis Brodie at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.
ﾓThat was a real turning point for me,ﾔ she said. ﾓHe [Brodie] sat down beside me at the wheel, and I was making a plate. When I thought I was finished, he asked me, ﾑare you happy with that rim?ﾒ I said I guess not and he told me, ﾑthere are no small parts, just small actors.ﾒ Even though the rim is something really small, itﾒs a big part of the piece. He really got me to focus and look at every little piece of the pottery to make it perfect.ﾔ
Brodie continually told Flegel to go to graduate school, but she wasnﾒt sure if it was the right route to take.
ﾓWith art, grad school is for people who want to teach, and I didnﾒt want to teach,ﾔ she said. ﾓMy whole life, people were telling me I should teach and now Iﾒm in grad school, so I can teach.ﾔ
With her first year of graduate school under her belt, Flegel felt the draw of the mountains and, with the help of her husband Jonathan Peedinﾒs enthusiasm, decided to come home for the summer.
ﾓMy husband and I spent a lot of time up here last year. Iﾒd been doing the shows at Snowshoe for about four years,ﾔ she said. ﾓItﾒs about a six-and-a-half to seven hour drive back and forth. Last year, I talked to Parween [Mascari] at the WV Living store, and she wanted me to get some of my stuff in the shop. That kind of got the ball rolling, and the house was empty, so I put together my studio up here.ﾔ
Flegel has found spending time in the mountains and at her grandfatherﾒs home cathartic.
ﾓI never came back unless I came to visit my grandfather,ﾔ she said. ﾓHereﾒs this big farmhouse and all this land and our studios. I wanted to get to my roots. I love the way this place makes me feel.ﾔ
Flegel always had a close relationship with her grandfather and has found living in his house helpful for her healing process of losing him.
ﾓI feel like he is here with me,ﾔ she said. ﾓI think about being out in his garage, and I think he would really think this would be something really special. He didnﾒt know what was going to happen to his place, and I think he would be really happy.ﾔ
Each day Flegel is joined by her dog, Zoey, in the studio, where she throws pots, listens to music and feels inspired by the scenery.
ﾓI love that I can look out the door and see this open land with apple trees and wildlife,ﾔ she said. ﾓWhen Zoey and I go on walks, I collect different things to include in my pottery. I have a pot with apple seeds stuck in the side, I use river rocks to put grooves into the pots, and I even have a turkey feather that I use.ﾔ
The use of organic materials has inspired Flegel to collect West Virginia clay in the county to make special West Virginia pieces.
Once the summer dwindles into another school year, Flegel will continue to use her grandfatherﾒs house as a studio and second home. As for what will happen after grad school, who knows?
ﾓI never thought I would want to move back,ﾔ she said. ﾓI guess when you experience other places, you realize what you took for granted when you were here.ﾔ
Flegelﾒs husband is already on board for the move to Pocahontas County.
ﾓHe loves it here. I got a call from him the other day, and he misses being up here.ﾔ
If they do decide to move here, Flegel said she and her husband are excited to tap into the artistic abilities of people in the county.
ﾓI would like to be involved in some sort of really awesome, amazingly huge art movement in this area, and I think there are enough artists in the county for that,ﾔ she said. ﾓI want to be an inspiration to people, I want to be like Mrs. Leary. I would like to teach at a college or university, but I feel like those people have already been inspired and already have an idea of what they want to do. I want to get a five-year-old or 15-year-old and help them find their niche. I want to be that inspiration for kids. Why not here where I grew up?ﾔ
Flegel is a member of The Collectors Gallery, a cooperative of fine arts in North Carolina and the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op. She also participates in several events at Snowshoe Mountain Resort, including the Fire on the Mountain Chili Cookoff and the Wine and Jazz Festival.
To see Flegelﾒs pottery, visit www.alisonpottery.com or www.thecollectorsgallery.com.