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Sublime Ceramics

Kelly P. Farley shows that the focus is still on craftsmanship in Wine Country.



Photos by Mimi Giboin

In a studio on the eastern slope of Howell Mountain, amid the redwood groves of Pope Valley, spins the potter’s wheel of Kelly P. Farley. His signature ceramics, with their clean lines and timeless white glaze, are instant classics.

Three years ago, Farley was invited to show his work at the Remodelista Holiday Market in San Francisco. He brought a healthy offering of his meticulously handcrafted mixing bowls that nest and sold out in no time. “It’s been a nonstop pace ever since,” he says. “The reaction has been tremendous. I can’t keep up.”

Farley, a Chicago native, took his first pottery class as an undergrad at a small liberal arts college in West Virginia. “I fell in love with the process and knew at that moment how my living was going to be made,” he says. And though Farley has been making pottery ever since, the pivotal moment for him was when he visited the Richard Carter Studio in Pope Valley more than 10 years ago.

A Perfect Fit: Crafting nesting bowls requires a precise hand.Carter, a renowned sculptor, had transformed an 85-acre, 130-year-old ranch into an artist’s paradise complete with working studios, a kiln building, and resident housing. Carter offered Farley a residency and, in effect, determined the creative trajectory of Farley’s career.

Now, Farley attributes the core of his design strength to his time at Carter’s artists’ colony. “I think my true growth as an artist has come from the Napa Valley and living in its rural setting,” he says.

The exacting lines of Farley’s work harken back to a time when craftsmanship was tantamount, as it still is here in Pope Valley. The precision and talent that go into creating bowls that nest are not to be overlooked. “It takes skill to replicate each piece by hand, and that skill comes over time with lots of discipline,” Farley says.

How does he know when he’s completed one of his archetypal designs?

“When there is nothing else I can edit out,” he says. popevalleypottery.com.

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