Asheville, NC, potter sharing his expertise at Marion Art School | Local News

The Powells, who have been working pottery for nearly 50 years, take a piece out of a kiln that has reached 1850 degrees Fahrenheit. Working with the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts in Marion, Powell taught potters the process of Raku firing.

Stephanie Porter-Nichols / Smyth County News & Messenger


MARION, Virginia – The Powells bark to keep everyone where they are.

“No one gets burned under my watch,” he says.

Powell checks the thermometer again.

It’s time. The gauge now indicates that the temperature inside the oven is 1850 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wearing protective gloves and holding a long pair of pliers, Powell opens the lid. He takes out a bowl from inside the oven. The pottery lights up in orange.

Henderson Pottery Appalachian School of Arts 02

Wearing protective gloves, Les Powells removes a piece of pottery from a reduction pot.

Stephanie Porter-Nichols / Smyth County News & Messenger

Quickly but cautiously, Powell walks over to a metal trash can recently filled with newspaper. As he places the bowl inside, flames erupt before the lid is quickly put back on, putting out the heat.

The master

In the Southeastern pottery world, Powell is a celebrity. Catherine Schrenker, executive director of the Wayne C. Henderson School of Appalachian Arts describes him as the Wayne Henderson of pottery. Henderson, the institution’s namesake, is an internationally renowned luthier and musician.

On this cold November weekend, the potter from Asheville, North Carolina, works at Marion at the Henderson School, helping her carve out a unique place for herself in the region’s art world.

In a letter recently shared with Marion City Council, Schrenker wrote: “I am very proud to announce that we are ready to put pottery on the map in Southwest Virginia. We are now in the process of establishing a Pottery Guild here in Marion, which will be the only one in SWVA.

Kayleen C. Rice