The Village Potters’ Uniquely Collaborative Concept

From dripping murals to rust-speckled statuaries, you’ll find a lot of unique art in the River Arts District—but nothing quite like The Village Potters. “To partner up with five professional potters and build your dream with that kind of support system, I don’t know of anybody doing it,” says Sarah Wells Rolland, her hands clasped and balanced on her knees. 

Rolland and her husband George founded The Village Potters in 2011, an unprecedented, collaborative community that’s part studio, part teaching center, and part artist incubator. Around 1998, after an already lengthy career as a potter and lots of solo studio time, Rolland was inspired by her apprentice program and hosting workshops. “Giving away what I’d acquired and learned in 25 years was the thing I was passionate about, and so I started creating an idea to do this,” she remembers. 

But she couldn’t do it alone. In 2011, she and a group of professional potters opened The Village Potters, a true collective. Though the Rollands carry the debt, everything else is shared among the core team, from teaching to the on-site gallery, with hopes for profit-sharing in the future. 

The breadth of learning is what makes The Village Potters so unique. Novices can sign up for six-week beginner and intermediate pottery classes, while passionate potters can participate in the two-year ISM (Independent Study and Mentoring) program, which includes demos, small groups, and one-on-ones with the resident potters as artists find their own paths; graduates can rent out a new incubator studios as they refine their business. 

It’s an exceptionally collaborative concept, one made possible by the era and city we’re in. “Asheville is one of the cities that’s really trending on community and connection,” says Rolland, pointing out that recent decades have fostered a disconnect between artists that’s only recently being alleviated as artists reopen an ancient dialogue. “When you’re talking about fine craftsmanship, there’s no better way to develop excellent skills than to work with people that are masterful at what they do,” she notes. The proof of her claim rests in, Marque Gritta.