Josh Copus – Red Lodge Clay Center

Josh CopusMarshall, North Carolina

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Josh Copus is a ceramic artist and creative entrepreneur from Marshall, North Carolina, where he lives with his flower farmer wife Emily Patrick.

Josh is originally from Floyd County, Virginia, where he was raised in a close-knit community of farmers and artisans in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The local traditions of crafts and agriculture in Appalachia blended with the new ideas and outlook of the alternative community to form the basis of Josh’s life philosophy and instill an appreciation for art and nature that strongly influences his current work in ceramics.

Since moving to North Carolina in 1998 to attend Warren Wilson College, Josh has continued to study ceramics at a variety of schools and through countless hours of working with other artists throughout the world.

He received an associates degree in professional crafts from the Haywood Community College in 2003 and a bachelor of fine arts degree from University of North Carolina Asheville in 2007, where he started the Building Community Project.

After receiving the Windgate Fellowship, Josh Copus bought 2 acres of land in Madison county, burned a house down, built an outhouse and began establishing a woodfired pottery compound. He has since built 3 large wood burning kilns, a studio and a whole network of barns and gardens on the property.

In 2016, Josh bought the Old Marshall Jail with a group of friends. They are currently in the process of readapting the space into a creative blend of apartments, studios, and commercial space.

When he is not building and making things, Josh spends most of his time on his land stacking rocks, enjoying the satisfaction of freshly cut grass, operating the tractor, and constantly searching for interesting materials to build and make things with.

Clay is a material accepting of impression.  It is a record of every process, from its geological formation in the earth to its eventual transformation in the fire. My work with ceramics begins with the clay.  My ceramic studio practice is essentially an effort to distill the experiences of my life and infuse them into my work with clay.  This practice grew out of an interest in creating personally significant work that communicates my enthusiasm for the material and the process of making, and strongly reflects the influences that inform the decisions I make in my life and in the studio.

By using wild materials dug from the river bottoms and mountainsides of North Carolina, my work gains a connection to place and establishes the materials as a valuable source of influence. Everything I make contains an element of my response to the experience of working with these materials.  Every piece is infused with the qualities and character of my clay; whether it is the subtlety of its dark iron body breaking through a white slip or the drama of its diverse particle size exposed through a facet, the qualities of my clay effect what I make and my intention is bring out the inherit beauty of the materials in every piece.

However, my interest in using wild materials is not limited to the influence of their physical properties and extends to the intangible qualities that these materials can bring to the work.  The physical properties of my materials are not as unique as my experience of using them and it is the increased participation in the creative process that I have come to value most.  Digging my own clay has increased my connection to the area where I live and furthered my relationship with the surrounding community, creating an authentic context for my work to exist in.  Most importantly I find a great amount of excitement in digging my own clay and my hope is that the enthusiasm I have for my materials is transferred to the finished product.  I want each piece to carry with it the feeling I get when I’m working with wild clay straight from the ground.

The experience of working with wild materials has contributed greatly to my growth as both an artist and a person.  It has confirmed my belief that the more highly developed a maker is as a human being, the better their work in the world will be.  There is no real beauty without character and like the clay that I use to make it, my work is a reflection of my character.  As a human being, I am accepting of impression and each piece I make represents my personality, experiences, and my dreams.