Hamlin Ceramics: Vibrant Art, Inspired by Gardens


In August of each year, the New Morning Gallery in Asheville sponsors a popular art and craft show on the grounds of the Cathedral of All Souls in Biltmore Village. The show is known for its high quality crafts representing artists throughout the U.S.

This year, I had time for a quick tour of booths on Sunday afternoon, just before the show ended. One display stopped me short: the colorful, textured vessels of ceramics artist Mike Hamlin. Some pieces were cratered, very organic-looking, as  shown above.


Others were more elegant, with smooth finishes and a more intense spectrum of colors.

The creator of this varied work is Mike Hamlin of Hamlin Ceramics. He is influenced by gardening (“I combine my passion for gardening with my passion for ceramics and design forms…”), as well as by Scandanavian and mid-century design and other influences.



Mike’s creations are almost surreal, especially contrasted against a white background. These gorgeous colors and textures made me daydream: I would redecorate my house, using hues of blue and green, with several of these vessels as focal points. I would fill them with wispy native flowers or, in winter, arching sprays of dry grasses. But since redecorating is out, I’m content with one of Mike’s smaller pieces, a perfect complement to my rotating collection of seedpods, tiny shells, dried petals, and other objects.


I had never met Mike before the craft show, but I enjoyed talking to him about his work and his gardens. You can reach him at  http://www.hamlin-smith.com.

As Close As I’ll Get to Growing Vegetables

Everyone but me is successful at growing vegetables — at least it seems that way. I hear people talk about their heirloom tomatoes and their exotic cultivars of chard and radishes and how they cooked a mess of green beans for supper last night. Well, here’s the extent of my “crops” for the year:


The potatoes in the vegetable drawer sent out these gigantic pink shoots before I realized it was happening. Admittedly, I don’t cook as much as I used to, but was still shocked to find such long, healthy shoots growing in the cabinet. I started to use this photo on an Easter blog post but figured it might come across as sacrilegious. Anyway, this is the sum yield/production of vegetables at my house.

Main reasons why I can’t grow anything but potato shoots:

1. Deer (as many as seven on the property at any given time) 2. Voles  3. Moles  4. Rabbits  5. Squirrels  6. Chipmunks  7. Assorted predatory insects  and caterpillars  8. Steep hillsides  9. Not enough sunny areas to produce healthy crops, even if reasons 1-8 didn’t thwart the process.

Even herbs (other than basil and spearmint) won’t grow. The soil is so loamy and fertile it keeps Mediterranean-type plants too moist and spindly. Trees, shrubs, and wildflowers love the soil and shade — just not herbs or most vegetable plants.

Here are some ways I could compensate:


– Grow lettuces in a giant teacup.

– Wear one of Julie Rothman’s temporary tattoos of a carrot or tomato on my arm. People might assume I grow vegetables, or that I’m a big fan of eating them.


– Get a scarecrow or two, like these at Sunny Point Cafe in Asheville. The deer would be undeterred probably, but the neighbors would believe we’re busy growing vegetables over at our house.


Oh…. I think I’ll just go sit down …. maybe make a list for the farmers’ market or the grocery store. I’ll remind myself of all those long, hot days spent hoeing vegetables when I was growing up. I’ll remember why buying them sounds so appealing right now.

Maybe a friend will take pity on me and offer some homegrown heirloom tomatoes. It’s hard to find a good tomato, you know.

Why So Busy? Rest. The House Can Wait.

Autumn Light, In Sharp Focus

This past year has been a blur of busy-ness, much of it related to home upkeep: roofing, painting, plumbing, replacing boards destroyed by carpenter bees and woodpeckers, doing the planning to make all these projects happen.

This has been a year of re-evaluation, too: Questioning the wisdom of expending so much life energy and resources on the maintenance of property. Thinking about The American Dream of owning a home and immersing oneself in overseeing it, insuring it, paying taxes on it. Thinking about shelter as a concept and about people who are homeless, or displaced from their homes, in places throughout the world. Realizing, on a personal level, that there are important things to do in life, and that time — and energy –are not as infinite as they used to be.

Sometimes, all this pondering is too much, and a seemingly minor event interrupts the whirling excesses of the brain. This time it was in the form of an unexpected beam of autumn light.

This summer, I put two small, wire chairs out near the creek, in order to work on a writing project (or something). I sat by the creek, not paying much attention to my surroundings. I went back inside. The season passed, and I used the chairs a few more times, mainly as a convenient surface to hold pots or garden tools while I was on my way somewhere else. Then, fall came, and with it, unexpected patterns of light and reflection.

One day,  I looked out the window and saw the light focused on my chairs as if to say, “Here’s where you need to be. Slow down. Listen to the sounds of the water. Rest, just for a while.” Resting is not something I do very well. Idleness was not considered a virtue when I was growing up. So now I’m going back to that little girl and gently suggesting that she doesn’t have to be working, or busy, every second of the day. She’ll be glad to hear that, I think.

By the Creek

This is my wish for you, and for myself : Some time to rest. A soothing spot in Nature. Peace of mind. And no housing worries, whatsoever.

Old Urn, Rescued

This morning I met with a new client who wants an herb garden with a classic, formal design.  As we walked around outside, talking and getting to know one another, we found this large, broken urn under some hackberry trees at the back of the property. It looked forlorn and dignified at the same time. I loved its earthy colors and textures.

My client and I thought the top section of the urn should find new life in the herb garden. We figured we could partially submerge it in the ground and plant thyme or golden marjoram at the base. Then, we’d have some kind of herbal-something spilling from the top.

I like re-using old, broken-down things. Not everything has to be new and flawless.