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One afternoon, I drove out into the hills to a small community improbably called Bat Cave, to visit the craft artist Michael Sherrill. Sherrill, who has frequently taught at Penland, moved here in the ’70s; over the years he, like many before him, created his own small universe in the Appalachian semi-wild
There’s a great story from Sunday’s Hendersonville Times-News about Banks Mountain Forest Farm, where we recently bought the ash lumber and had it milled. Writer Beth Beasley did a great job describing the way farm owner Bob Richens uses his draft horses to extract the ash trees with minimal impact on the surrounding forest. Mudtools is mentioned in the story, and I’m quoted, too.
While most ash trees in this area have some level of infestation of the Emerald Ash Borer, which will eventually kill the tree, the trees that Bob is removing still have lots of board feet of usable lumber. After we shape the tool parts from the dried ash wood, we char and sand each before adding a light oil/beeswax finish. As I mention in the article, ash is a super-strong wood that also has lots of give—making it perfect for use in tools. These tools will just get better with age, for a lifetime of use.
Fantastic article in World Magazine! Thank you and get job to Hannah Harris.
Sculptor Michael Sherrill’s studio in western North Carolina is tucked under trees, nestled a few yards from a small waterfall. The soft, cascading sound of the waterfall met the snap of a wood-burning fireplace as Sherrill poured green tea into stoneware mugs and described how nature and faith influence his art.
In his delicately rendered sculptures, Michael Sherrill seeks to elicit a sense of wonder from viewers and to make them see things afresh. Working with clay, glass and metal, his exquisite floral forms have the allure of Martin Johnson Heade’s passionflower and orchid paintings and the botanical engravings of John James Audubon, at the same time they are remarkably new. This retrospective will illustrate the artist’s evolution over his more than 40-year career and highlight his contributions to contemporary art, craft and design. Primarily a self-taught artist, Sherrill moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to the western North Carolina mountains in 1974. His early influences came from the North Carolina folk pottery tradition and the community surrounding Penland School of Crafts and the Southern Highland Handicraft Guild. Sherrill began his career by making functional clay vessels in the 1970s and 1980s, but his desire for continued growth led him to create altered vessels of more abstracted form in the 1990s. Ultimately he shifted his focus to multimedia sculptures inspired by nature, as seen in “Temple of the Cool Beauty (Yucca).” He explores the beauty in natural growth and decay with bright colors, often through painstaking technical processes. Sherrill’s exceptional skill is based on his innovative approach to using tools, technology and his keen sense of materials together to achieve what he calls his “natural narratives.”
Sherrill’s artistic evolution led him to master techniques of metalworking and glass working and to invent new tools where needed. In 1995, out of the need for tools that did not exist, he designed Mudtools®, now a successful line of tools for potters and sculptors. He is a frequent instructor at Penland and has taught at craft schools and workshops across the country. In 2003, The Mint Museum honored him as Artist of the Year. Sherrill served a two-month residency at the John Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan, WI in 2006. His work is in several major museum collections, including the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. As part of the World Ceramic Exposition/KOCEF, Sherrill was one of ten artists invited to build outdoor sculptures placed permanently at The Museum at Icheon World Ceramic Center, Icheon-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea, in 2004. He received a United States Artists Windgate Fellowship in 2010.
"Michael Sherrill Retrospective" is organized by The Mint Museum. Funding for the exhibition catalog and national tour provided by the Windgate Foundation. Additional funding for the ASU Art Museum’s presentation is supported by the Windgate Foundation as part of the Windgate Contemporary Craft Initiative.