Charles Counts (1934-2000)

“Art is a disease.  There is no cure for it.”

Bottle and Cups (1957)

This quote sums up the life of Charles counts.  Art “infected” Charles as a school boy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and became his way of life.  He was the epitome of the Renaissance man, practicing various desciplines such as quilting, weaving, rug hooking, drawing, painting, philosophy, poetry and intellectual thinking.  However, he became most well known for his pottery and teaching.  Counts worked hard to be a part of the Appallacian heritage of craftsmen who made objects by hand.

Hear Here Words (1984)

Charles Count studied at various places including Berea College and Southern Illinois University at Carondale where he acquired an MFA in Ceramics and Weaving.  Charles apprenticed for Marguerite Wildenhain, a professor who studied at the Bauhaus School of Design in Germany.  It was under her tutelage, Counts learned that art and craft are really two halves to a whole, that craft is the origination of any art from, and functionality of the object and simple design are the goal of any true artist.   Counts also learned that an artist must master the fundamental elements of shape and form before being creative and that there is a spiritual connection between an artist and nature.

Growth Quilt (1977) - Rug (1984) - Quilt (1965)

After training Counts moved back to Tennessee to open his first studio near Knoxville between 1958 and 1962.  Counts found inspiration and strength in the flora and fauna of the natural world.  Repeated natural motifs in his work such as trees, mountains and the sun reflect his belief of something spiritual in nature and in all things that grow.

Space and Time (1984)

Since 1956, Charles counts was a member and avid supporter of the Southern Highland Craft Guild whose mission it is to keep alive the Appalachian tradition of making traditional and contemporary arts and crafts by hand.  His legacy resides in the hundreds of students he taught and influenced.  The admiration he felt when he first saw the hand work of the mountain potters of Kentucky, Georgia and North Carolina continued to propel him through life, challenging him always to make a better pot than the last one.

Footed Covered Jar (1976) - Jar (1976) - Who Am I, Who Am Eye (1984)

Information on Charles Counts courtesy of Southern Highland Craft Guild

6 responses to “Charles Counts (1934-2000)

  1. I attended Charles Counts Pottery Workshop in the summer of 1977.
    There were three of us girls who stayed at their house in the back room
    for the six week workshop. This was the most memorable summer that
    I have ever had. Not only did I learn alot about Pottery, Art and Discipline. Charles and Rubynelle were very family oriented. We paired up each night and took
    turns cooking supper for everyone. We ate at the biggest dinner table
    I had ever seen. I remember going to the Yellow Deli for Banana Milk
    and swimming at the pond down the gravel road. After I had been their
    a couple weeks he told me my mom had asked him to keep an eye
    on me because this was the first time I had been this far from home.
    I was from Indiana and had just graduated from high school.
    A few weeks into the workshop I called home to see if I could stay
    an extra week. We had the opportunity to come back in October
    to build and fire an out door kiln. This was a great experience .
    We were able to make something for ourselves to keep and pick it up
    in the fall when we came back. I made a pitcher with two mugs. When I came back he had sold my two mugs. I was a little disappointed that I didnt
    get my mugs that matched my pitcher ( I still have it ) but really excited
    that someone thought my work was worth buying. I was only 18.
    Someone out there has my two mugs with Tricia 77 on the bottom.
    How cool is that?!! I have only worked with pottery a little since then,
    but hope to get back into it since I am getting a little closer to retiring.
    You made a huge impression on my life Charles. I wish you were still
    here to read this . Thanks to you and your family for a very rewarding

    Tricia Terry
    Daleville, IN.


  2. I grew up on Moore Rd, New Salem, Lookout Mountain, and I worked for Charles Counts when I was a teenager. He owned “This Old House” across from where I grew up. I kept the house open for tourist coming across the mountain and it was filled with pottery and art from local artist. I have so many good memories of him and Rubynelle.

  3. I took Charles’ Summer Workshop while in college and, later, I was selected as one of Charles’ 2-yr. apprentices when he rec’d a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. I lived with several other girls in This Old House one summer. I am deeply indebted to Charles and all that he taught me about making pottery.

  4. I spent a summer in Rising Faun in 1963, and lived with The Counts!. My husband studied with Charles. I decorated many of his pots & birds, strung wind chimes, Cared for my year old son and Little Craig and helped Rubynelle with house keeping. I loved it all!

  5. Phyllis Counts

    Charles Richard Counts was the son of Arthur Richard Counts and Erma Colley Counts who first lived near Hayter’s Gap, Washington County, Southwest Virginia. They later lived in Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky, before moving near Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father worked for the Oak Ridge Atomic Energy plant. He is the gggg grandson of John & Mary Counts of Glade Hollow, Russell County, Virginia. His early beginnings were with simple, hardworking people of Appalachia. The Counts clan believe his memories are reflected in his earthy style of pottery.

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