Carol Sauvion Interview

October 5, 2011

Carol Sauvion is the visionary behind the PBS Series, “Craft in America” and will be coming to Asheville during American Craft Week on October 9 to speak at the Fine Arts Theater. I had a chance to talk with Carol in a phone interview and hear her story and thoughts on American Craft.

Have you ever visited Asheville before?

She was pleased to tell me that her father lives in Columbus, NC and she has visited Asheville many times. She is constantly impressed with North Carolina’s rich and well-kept history of Craft and has visited artists across the state, particularly in Jugtown  ((insert link))

Did you grow up in a “Craft” focused family?

Her mother did everything around the house and handiwork, but by no means was craft her family’s focus.  She didn’t become immersed in the craft culture until after college where she worked with Toshi Seeger who taught her how to work with ceramics. She immediately fell in love with throwing clay and eventually worked for 3 years in her own studio, then opened the Freehand Gallery in 1980 which has become an institution dedicated to functional craft.

What inspired you to create Craft in America?

In 1996 she took her son around the country to tour baseball parks and museums. While touring the nation’s baseball spots, Carol took the opportunity to visit craft artists. As she visited artists and their studios, she thought to herself “This is really a whole world, under the radar” a world of people who make things and are so dedicated and passionate about their craft. She thought that a lot of her customers wanted to know about the person who made the work and she wanted to be able to help bridge the connection between maker and consumer.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the Craft Economy?

She described that it is a direct reflection of the entire economy- crafts are feeling the burden of economic downturn, just as any other industry; however, people are beginning to understand the meaning and importance of the handmade item.

Do you have a particular artist whose work you find particularly compelling?

She said that so many artists are doing work that is vital and essential that when you walk into a gallery or a studio, the energy from the maker fills the room.

She took the opportunity to tell me about a few North Carolina artists. Vernon, Pam and Travis Bailey are potters from Jugtown who she is constantly inspired by. She described the importance of their work and how pottery runs through the blood in their family and how proud they are of the work they have accomplished, telling me that Pam once said that “to watch Vernon throw pots was to watch him breathe.”

She also noted an incredible rebirth of clay in North Carolina. Mark Hewitt, who was also featured in Craft in America, is originally from Great Britain and came to North Carolina because of the clay and the culture of ceramics in the state.

Carol then told me about an exhibit that is being currently hosted by Craft in America and the Craft and Folk Art Museum called “Golden State of Craft – California from 1960-1985” that pays tribute to the craft artists who helped cultivate the California lifestyle in the post-WWII era.

“Working in a range of materials and forms—from furniture, ceramics, and metals to textiles, jewelry, and glass—artists such as Sam Maloof, Laura Andreson, Allan Adler, Lia Cook, Arline Fisch, and Marvin Lipofsky defined the ethos of the era and the West Coast way of life through their creations. The message that these artists presented resounded across the country, shaping how people perceived their homes and instilled art into their daily lives; it made people see the fabric of their environments in a remarkably new light.”



Carol Sauvion’s lecture this Sunday at the Fine Arts Theater will surely be interesting and I’m looking forward to hearing more of her thoughts on craft and the culture that it has inspired. Be sure to check out Craft in America’s latest episode being aired this Sunday at The Folk Art Center from 2-4, then make your way to her lecture from 7-9 in Downtown Asheville, preceded by a reception from 6-7 at Blue Spiral 1.


-Jamie Carpenter

Research and Communications Assistant


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