Mindy Weddel and
Carmel Ridge Clayworks

by Barney Quick

Ceramicist Mindy Weddle sees her functional pottery as serving an artistic purpose. “I’m striving for that community feel, which is so strong in Brown County,” she says. “That’s why I make a lot of things in sets, things that might be used by several people in a household. That comes from starting a family.”

While she occasionally participates in shows or exhibits her work in galleries, she mainly sells her bowls, dishes, jars, teapots, and oil bottles from her studio, Carmel Ridge Clayworks, located just off State Road 45 between Trevlac and Helmsburg. It’s on a stretch of road where roots connecting families and neighbors run deep. “I know everybody for a mile in either direction up and down this road,” she says with satisfaction.

This delight in a sense of community was part of her makeup from her early years. “I was raised in Ohio’s Amish country,” she says. “It had the same rolling landscape and value of craftsmanship as Brown County.”

Carmel Ridge Clayworks

She attended Bowling Green State University, majoring in both ceramics and photography. She relished the camaraderie of the firing phase of the pot-making process. “The entire ceramics program—students from all six classes—would turn out when it came time to do the wood firing,” she says. “It was the culmination of a cycle that started out with very solitary work at the wheel.”

Weddle became acquainted with Brown County through college friends, Greg (also a potter) and Kate Schatz. “I felt comfortable here, a real sense of peace and belonging. It wasn’t something I could explain—I just knew. Within six months I had moved,” she explains. She rented a shack and put her wheel and kiln in it, producing occasional pieces and rounding out her livelihood with bartending. Then she met her husband and they built her studio on the Carmel Ridge property. Establishing a real home, family and work facility reinforced her commitment to pottery as a calling.

One finds occasional color flare-ups or runs of glaze suggesting fingers wrapping around a piece in her work, but for the most part her style tends toward uniforms color and surface texture. “So far I’ve stayed with glazes I trusted and could use reliably,” she says.

She uses several different kinds of clay, explaining that, while she has stylistic preferences, “people want variety. I can’t have a shelf full of brown pots.”

She still uses a wood-firing kiln and fires at cone 10. Like most potters, she says the element of surprise at the end of the process is the big reward of the medium. “You cannot predict how the ash will collect on your pot,” she says.

Lately, she has been experimenting with salt. She adds it right to the firebox when her kiln has reached temperature. It creates its own glaze, the resulting texture being similar to that of an orange peel.

Her work was greatly aided in late 2005 when she received a Greer Foundation Fellowship through the Bloomington Area Arts Council. This award was created in memory of Lucy Greer, a former Bloomington potter. The generosity of a local retiring potter, Cheri Glaser, made it possible for Weddle to complete her kiln.

Bloomington has been the setting for much of her show activity. She has participated in exhibits at the Waldron Arts Center and at A Fair of the Arts, held on the second Saturday of the months from May through October in conjunction with the Farmer’s Market in Showers Common.

Her studio itself is a work in progress. She plans to install a darkroom and resume her work as a photographer in earnest. “I know that my pottery and my photographs both have a quietness about them, but it’s true that my photographs are more dense and involved. Each medium provides an outlet for a particular part of my personality,” she explains.

She does plan to enter some show this year, but her role as a mother will dictate the number of such projects. “As far as a goal, for the coming year, it’s to make better pots,” she explains. “What I mean by that is pots with more gesture, more personality, pots that convey that sense of community.”

Carmel Ridge Clayworks is open most days from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is located at 5765 Carmel Ridge Road. Weddle can be contacted at (812) 988-1013 or <carmelridgeclayworks@att.net>.