Clay Buddies: Lisa Flamion
Jun 02, 2021 • Lindsey Zinno
Lisa Flamion leads East Fork’s Quality Control team. She’s also a potter and a gardener carrying on the family tradition of growing vegetables to eat and share with others. She doesn’t mind when the rabbits take their share.
Hi, Lisa! What do you do here at East Fork?
I lead the Quality Control Team. We sand and inspect all of the finished pottery before it goes into inventory and assign a quality level to each pot that comes through. We collect data along the way to help Production learn where improvements are needed in processes, tools or materials. I also meet with Production Team leads, the kiln lead and the Process Technician to troubleshoot problems that arise in various areas of production.
What qualities (no pun intended) does a person who works in quality control have to have? I’m sure that good eyesight/corrective lenses is just the beginning...
Certainly good eyesight is important in the type of Quality Control we are currently responsible for as well as the ability to easily recognize color differences. The most important quality would probably be the ability to notice subtle differences between physical objects upon quick inspection. Our current QC Team has to be able to retain a LOT of information about all of the different flaws that can occur in our products and be able to quickly recognize and accurately identify each one. They memorize about 40 different Loss Codes to use to identify and record these flaws. I ask a lot of my team members and they do a great job! We are very thorough and understand the importance of accuracy.
Your husband Brock also works at East Fork on the production team. Did you meet here? Do you have to stop yourself from talking about work all the time when you’re home?
Brock and I met in Ceramics class late in college back in 2007, so definitely longer than we’ve been at East Fork together. We were hired at separate times for separate departments. We try to separate ourselves as much as possible when it comes to work, but we also work quite well together. Professionalism is very important to us. When we are at work, we are probably 97% co-workers and 3% partners. Outside of work we try to focus on our garden, our cat, Hank, taking care of our house, talking about art or making our own pottery.
Tell me more about the pottery you and Brock make. Do you have a studio at home?
I haven’t really been making my own pottery for a couple of years now (since we moved out of our last studio in the River Arts District) but plan to resume making as soon as we are able to build our home studio. We are hopeful to be ready to do so in less than a year if plans work out. Brock has continued to make and sell pots at Odyssey members’ studio and Co-Op Gallery here in Asheville.
We both use a lot of color and typically red or brown claybodies. I’ve done a lot of hand-building from slabs of clay, while Brock uses the potter’s wheel as a tool and often alters his pots with wooden paddles or by adding multiple thrown segments together. We both make utilitarian pieces mostly using colored slips and glazes we make ourselves as well as commercial glazes that we usually acquire from others who no longer need them. We often have a ton of bottles of glaze that are less than half full. We try to reconstitute and use whatever we can get to help cut back on waste. We both do a lot of hand-drawn patterns or imagery on our surfaces but Brock has also been using iron and overglaze decals on his surfaces as well for years. We basically treat each pot we make as a 3D painting. We have examples of our work over the years on our website 2heartedstudio.com.
What did you do before you started working here?
I worked for a large OB-GYN practice where I coordinated and organized surgical and procedure schedules, verified insurance benefits and explained a lot of it to the patients. I sat in a small office at a desk all day and I did not want to do that any longer. I did like helping patients better understand the confusing things that come with scheduling and preparing for a surgery and all the crazy weird stuff that most insurance policies don’t clearly explain, but it wasn’t for me forever.
Where are you from?
I’m from central Indiana. I grew up in a beautiful area full of covered bridges, corn fields, soybean fields and cow pastures that went on for miles. I graduated high school with just 96 other people. I went to college in Southern Indiana where I met Brock. I studied Studio Art (painting, drawing, woodworking, metal sculpture and ceramics) as well as Art History and Psychology.
Brock and I moved to Asheville on May 27, 2011. It’s hard to believe we’ve been here for 10 years now. We were living in Evansville, Indiana where we went to school for a few years after graduation. As young artists we wanted to live somewhere that was more accepting and supporting of artists and humans of all walks of life. Brock had attended multiple summer workshops at Penland School of Crafts, visited Asheville a few times and he suggested we move here. (We were ready to go anywhere!) We visited AVL together one weekend, found an apartment and moved the following weekend. It was pretty wild. It was one of the best decisions we’ve made yet.
So you’ve been living in the South for a decade now. Did you experience any culture shock when you got here? Find any new dishes or cooking techniques that you didn’t have in Indiana?
I remember when we moved here that some people thought we came from the “Far North” when in reality, the place we moved from is not much farther north than Asheville. It just felt like a different, beautiful, relaxing place in the mountains. I’m pretty sure I never again want to live in a place that doesn’t have mountains. I will say, I’ve always had a difficult time understanding when Asheville natives say the word “oil.” If you’re not from the South, you know what I mean.
I don’t eat dairy and I remember having vegan grits for the first time here in WNC and I realized I had been missing out on this delicious dish my entire life! We did not eat grits in Indiana. I’d heard of them, but they were definitely not common...which seems ironic, because of all the corn there, but I know a lot of the Indiana corn is also grown to feed livestock. I remember seeing all of the “vegan options” on menus in Asheville and I thought, “How lucky am I to find this place of delicious and healthy food.” Don’t worry, we also found all of the wonderfully delicious not-so-healthy food as well and we love it all! I think I would have to say that cooked greens are my favorite though. Any kind!
What is your favorite East Fork glaze? Do you have any pieces of pottery that are extra special to you?
My favorite East Fork glaze is Soapstone. It was a beautiful glaze but offered a lot of variation which can be lovely to the eye, but can be less cooperative when trying to achieve more consistency in mass production. It makes perfect sense to make changes when transitioning from East Fork as a studio pottery, into East Fork the pottery manufacturer.
The first piece of pottery I took home once I started working for East Fork was a Soapstone SB2 (or Everyday Bowl to the outside world). The bowl was beautiful but someone had accidentally dropped a large glob of yellow Pollen glaze into the middle of it (which can totally happen when glazing pots by hand). It came out of the firing in such a way that we were not able to sell it. If a pot is unable to be sold, then it becomes “Third Quality” scrap and our employees are able to take those pots home with them. It’s a great perk of working here and helps to prevent waste. I’ll probably always keep that bowl as a reminder of the beginning of my time here at East Fork. I’m a fairly sentimental person.
I understand you love to garden. What do you grow? How did you get started?
I started trying to grow plants in the early years of our apartment life here in Asheville. I’m certainly no expert. I just try out different things and read about others’ experiences. I really consider most of my gardening experimental each year because I add more and more every season. My first Spring I think I had basil, one little tomato and a couple of flowers. I’ve been fascinated by plant life since junior high in Central Indiana where we all had to memorize Indiana plants, crops, trees and cuts of meat from the farm animals in our region. That may seem strange to many, but it was very normal for the schools in our area. They were teaching young farmers. My parents were not farmers but my father’s family grew much of what they ate in a large home garden. We’ve been growing more and more each year since we moved to our house in Swannanoa (a small town just east of Asheville). This year we have tomatoes, peppers, multiple types of greens, radishes, carrots, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, herbs and more! We really want to learn to grow our own food to eat and to share with others.
Got any tips for people who want to get started with growing flowers or vegetables? What about those who live among the deer, rabbits, bears? Last summer, I watched a groundhog eat my wildflowers. Think I should give up?
Never give up! The world needs more plants, always…and those animals need them too, as frustrating as it can be sometimes. We try to garden in harmony with the animals around us, understanding that these things will happen and we grow food for us and the other animals in our yard. We have so many birds, rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, moles, voles, black bears, spiders, insects and even an opossum who lives under our little barn. Brock named him Cilantro.
We have built all of our food beds at least 2ft. above the ground and I’m starting our sunflowers in pots until they get a little bigger to help prevent our starts from being eaten up by most of our yard animals and of course to help our backs and knees. When starting to garden on a larger scale I’d say the most important thing to study would be the soil. Learn as much as you can about the proper soil for what you’re growing. Make sure the plants get all the sun and rain water that they need…and let nature do its thing.
What are the five objects you’ve chosen to share with us? What does each of them mean to you?
I made this little jar in my last year of college when I was really diving deeper into the ceramic arts. I was studying a lot about the argument of Art vs. Craft. I studied a LOT of art history as well and the concepts were just as interesting to me as the physical objects that were created. We mixed our own clay in a Soldner mixer back in school, which was a wonderful learning experience for me. I remember feeling so much pride in making my own clay from a recipe...maybe one that brilliant artists had used before me. I was just learning (and forever am) how to make lidded vessels and this little one was my pride and joy.
I threw the vessel, trimmed the foot, threw the lid (upside down) then trimmed the top to round it…and then I added the simple little coil handle. I sprayed some copper carbonate on the outside and fired it in our gas soda kiln at school. A handful of us would often fire overnight and sleep on sleeping bags all over the studio or kiln pad, depending on the weather. This was where I met my husband. This jar reminds me of a time in my life when I felt very empowered as an artist and as a young woman. Every place I’ve lived since I made it, it has rested on my bathroom sink, held my cotton swabs, looked me in the face every day and reminded me of my accomplishments.
This is a photo of Brock (my husband) and I in a hotel party room with the rest of our college Art Club when we went to SOFA Chicago 2007. SOFA stands for Sculpture Objects and Functional Art. It’s an annual exhibition presented by galleries with work of artists from around the world. Brock and I were Art Club nerds and so very proud of it. This is part of who we are. Forever students of the arts. This was the first photo ever taken of us together and I will always cherish it. Even though we may look a little different over the years…those two young, wild, eager artists are still in us.
This tiny piano music box was my grandmother’s. She kept it, along with many other little trinkets and treasures, in a curio cabinet in her room. As a child I would always ask her if I could play with the items from her cabinet. A lot of them were miniature versions of something, so of course a kid would love that. I remember she always said yes and I was so careful especially when I opened or closed it because the glass shelves would rattle each time. This little music box was made in Japan and it was probably my favorite item. I would wind it up and the music would take me to a dreamland. After she passed, when I was in my twenties, my aunt gave it to me. My grandmother had kept it for me to have when she was gone because she knew how much I loved it as a child. It still sounds as beautiful as I remember.
This ring belonged to my great grandmother and then later my mother. My mother gave it to me just a couple of years ago. My great grandmother’s parents moved to the U.S. from Bohemia (what is now Czech Republic) in the late 1800s but she was born in Minnesota once they were here. My great grandmother used to teach my mother different Bohemian words and phrases when she was a child that my mother later taught to me. She always referred to Bohemia as “Ol’ Country.” I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that part of my ancestors came from a land with many nomadic people called Roma (then referred to as gypsies) and I would dream about being one. Roma were true artists and craftspeople in my mind. They traveled and lived off of selling and trading what they made or their performance art. They’ve not always had the best reputation, but I’ve always thought that their lifestyle seemed like the truest way to live off of one’s abilities and I find that remarkably admirable. This ring is a tiny reminder to me that my family is very much so a family of immigrants and they have not been in this country for long. Most of us with white skin come from families of immigrants who have not been in this country long at all considering the U.S. is quite young compared to other countries of the world. I find that a very important thing to keep in mind.
This handled bowl or cappuccino mug was handmade in Mashiko, Japan, by a man whose family owns the longest climbing wood kiln in eastern Japan. The man’s wife was working at their studio and gallery the day I visited with Brock and my brother. She spoke little English and I little Japanese, but she showed me the pots and figurines that she, her husband and their son made there. I was able to show her photos of pots that I had made and we had a wonderful conversation. She was so happy we were potters that she gave us a tour of their entire studio space and all of their kilns. Mashiko is full of families of potters with climbing wood kilns on nearly every street. While we were there we also toured the Shoji Hamada Memorial Mashiko Sankokan Museum which includes wood fired kilns, many pots and artifacts and Hamada’s old studio space. The trip was extremely influential for me and I hope to visit again someday.
Connie, your choices in all things are aesthetically pleasing, diverse and always interesting. As an artist, I truly appreciate your devotion to all things.