I am currently a Resident Potter and Instructor (Intermediate Wheel Class) at The Village Potters Clay Center in Asheville, NC. I just completed their Independent Study and Mentoring program as an apprentice at the end of October 2020.
I was adopted from China at nine months old. You can read more about my adoption story here. I was raised by my amazing single mother alongside my younger sister, who also adopted from China. I grew up here in Asheville going to Isaac Dickson Elementary, Hanger Hall, and Asheville High. I grew up participating in competitive soccer and field hockey because I truly loved being part of a team. Thankfully, I have found my new team at The Village Potters.
For more about my path to finding happiness in clay, please watch this lecture I gave for the members of the Asheville Art Museum. You can also see the bud vases I made for the Asheville Art Museum's cafe on each of their dining tables.
Meili 美丽 (mĕi lì - pronounced MAY-lee) translated from Chinese means beautiful. My mom gave me this middle name to remind me of where I came from. I decided to make my pottery business name Katie Meili Pottery because it represents who I am, a Chinese-American young woman.
Katie Meili Messersmith is an up-and-coming, adopted Chinese American potter. She began working with clay in 2013 and has been a professional potter since 2018—but that wasn’t always her path. Before starting her pottery career, she excelled in STEM subjects and had envisioned a career in that area. After several traumatic life events, including three serious concussions, she realized that working with clay was the key for her to live a happy and fulfilling life. Rather than a formal education in the ceramic arts, she gained the majority of her pottery knowledge through the time-honored tradition of an apprenticeship at The Village Potters Clay Center. Through her apprenticeship, she had the opportunity to learn from nationally renowned potters and share her passion for clay by teaching over a hundred novice potters. She has since had the honor of becoming a Resident Artist at The Village Potters and has her work featured in their gallery. Katie meticulously details the surface of her work with slip-trailed dots. This gives an intricate and polished look to both her functional and larger statement pieces. She uses symmetrical geometric dot patterns that leave viewers with a zen-like satisfaction.
I started working with clay my senior year of high school (fall of 2013). I took Ceramics I fall semester and fell in love so I rearranged my spring semester schedule so that I could take Ceramics II.
When I moved away for college, I signed up for an eight week wood fired pottery class at the local community arts center in Danville, KY. I decided to start in an adult class off-campus to develop my skills before I jumped into an academic ceramics class. I took that class three times and learned how to load and work my teacher’s wood kiln at his house. One time the kiln did not get up to temperature and so we transferred our pots from the wood kiln to his propane kiln and I helped him do that firing as well.
I took one pottery class at my college, Centre College, during our short 3 week winter term. We focused on throwing with porcelain and playing with its ability to let light through. After two and a half years at Centre as an art history major, I decided to take a break from academics for mental health reasons and it was the best decision for me. I still plan to finish my bachelors locally but after I explore my options with pottery.
When I returned to Asheville, I found the pottery classes with the Continuing Education program at AB Tech. I took five intermediate classes there, three with a free structure to enhance our skills, one class focused on flower pots, and one class focused on baking dishes. After feeling like I wanted more than the AB Tech program had to offer, I started researching what classes and mentoring programs were in the area. I considered going to Haywood CC, Odyssey Clayworks and The Village Potters.
After visiting all three places, I immediately felt a welcoming and inspiring community at The Village. One thing that stood out to me was how open everyone was about their techniques. The focus is very much on community and collaborative learning which is something I have been searching for.
After spending the last year at The Village as an 8-hour apprentice, I have learned all the inter-workings of a community studio. I have learned how to mix glazes precisely and load kilns efficiently. My favorite part of being an apprentice has been the ability to get close with my mentors.