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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Melissa Stewart Linebarger, Honey Bee Pottery

Mar 27, 2015 10:48AM ● By Brandi Barnett

The Potter

April 2015
Photos: Christy Canafax

ENJOY: How did you become interested in pottery?
MELISSA:  I took all sorts of art classes as a kid. I loved clay the first time I touched it. The more I practiced, the better I got, but I wasn’t interested in pottery as anything more than a hobby before I met Otto Hieno. He changed everything. It amazed me that he could be famous and driving a fancy Rolls Royce selling pots. One day while I was throwing a pot, Otto was watching and said to me, “You’ve got what it takes.” It was that moment I knew I wanted to be a potter.

ENJOY: What types of things do you create?
MELISSA:  I make all sorts of things. Most of what I make is functional wheel-thrown pieces, like mixing bowls, dinnerware, teapots, coffee mugs, vases, sponge holders, things like that. I also make torsos, tiles, pinch pots and masks, those I make with just my hands. Each piece starts out as a ball of clay. The clay is formed to shape, fired, glazed and fired again. Everything is food, microwave and dishwasher safe.

ENJOY: What do customers like about your products?
MELISSA: There’s just something about handmade pottery – handmade anything, really. When someone creates something by hand, it’s a reflection of them and that moment. I think people can feel the energy of the artist in the art. That and coffee never tastes better than out of a handmade stoneware mug. Each piece is an original and has its own slight imperfections. In a world where most things are mass produced, objects made by hand have value. Handmade pottery feels good to hold, magically makes your food taste better and can start conversation. People appreciate things that are made to last and meant to be enjoyed for more than just a season.

ENJOY: Tell us about your creative space.
MELISSA: I make pottery in a sunny little screened-in porch right off the dining room in our 114-year-old Victorian home. I painted the walls white with a pretty gray trim and the floor a pretty blue with a large white floral design. I wanted to feel happy and inspired when I open the door. I added a big mirror, a bright yellow vintage lamp and a matching desk where my little boy plays with clay or paints while I throw. My favorite time to make pottery is early morning. I love getting up when the world is still sleeping and listening to the birds in the little forest outside my studio.

ENJOY: What do you enjoy about pottery?
MELISSA: I love everything about it. The earthy smell of my studio, the feel of wet clay slipping under my hands as I throw, the excitement I feel when I open the kiln to see what my finished pieces look like. Mostly I love the process. It feels good to have a vision and following it through. It’s therapeutic. I sit down at the wheel and zone out. When I’m finished, I feel centered.

Honey Bee Pottery products can be found at:
Enjoy the Store, Visalia, Arts Visalia and
KMK Organic Farm Store, Kingsburg.