By Lee Noles
Kristen Horne knew the exact moment when she wanted to learn how to become a potter.
It was in an art class at Piedmont High, where a visiting artist taught students the Japanese style of Raku, a 16th-century tradition of creating hand-shaped porous vessels. The lesson left such an impression on Horne that she began checking out videos on YouTube to learn as much as she could about pottery.
“It was so relaxing and therapeutic,” Horne said. “It has become my passion and it’s what I love to do.”
It also has become Horne’s career as the 22-year-old Union County native started her own business she calls Lily Valley Pottery. The entrepreneurial endeavor combines Horne’s passion for naturalistic, bright colors and a functionality through her creation of earthenware that includes mugs, trays and plates.
“I like the idea of waking up in the morning and going and getting a bright blue mug for coffee,” Horne said. “Or a bright red strain for spaghetti. Something that is different.”
What makes Horne’s rise in pottery unique was that art wasn’t too important to her when she was younger. No one in her family were artists as far as Horne can recall, and by her own admission, she can’t draw or paint. The closest she came to using clay was making mud pies as a child in the family backyard. Everything changed when the pottery class Horne took in high school sparked a journey that landed her in the visual arts program at Appalachian State University. It was in Boone where Horne honed her craft by completing internships with potter Carlos Robledo while participating in exhibitions at the university. Robledo began to teach Horne the glazing process while she gained experience in marketing her work. Horne now creates her own glazes and uses Instagram and Facebook to help get her pottery out to the public.
Another benefit for Horne has been her parents, Troyanne and Melvin Funderburk. After making a full commitment to getting involved with pottery, Horne knew she needed a kiln to fire her pieces. She relied on YouTube, where a video showed how to make an oven from a five-gallon bucket and a ceiling fan motor. Realizing she was out of her depth her parents bought Horne an electric kiln and let her use the family’s garage to practice her craft.
“I couldn’t make anything and fire it,” said Horne before getting the kiln from her parents. “And then to come home from school or on the weekend and be able to work on things, it opened so many doors for me.”
Horne recently overcame a difficult challenge when she had to have surgery on both her hands to correct what she called a nerve tumor. The procedure left her unable to work on her pottery for three months.
“It wasn’t any fun,” Horne said. “It was annoying not being able to do what you love. It was a sad period.”
Doing what she loves has allowed Horne an opportunity to experiment with a variety of styles. One has her placing rolled up clay on to another piece before using a sponge to wipe away spots to allow the crevices to turn a darker brown while the top becomes lighter. The result is a clay that appears to look like wood.
“I have people who come up to me and ask me how I made a certain piece out of wood,” Horne said. “And I think to myself that I had them fooled.”
She also has used candy molds for chocolate and Indian boutique stamps to create designs she imprints on the outside of her symmetrical artwork.
“I’m just doing my own thing,” Horne said.
Her own thing now includes building off the passion that started back in high school almost five years ago. Horne continues to have pieces shown at 47K Marketplace while traveling locally to markets. Although she says it can be hard to be an artist, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s become my love,” Horne said. “It is what I wanted to become, and it’s now what I want to do.”