December 19, 2011 by Velda Brotherton
WINSLOW — Each year Cheryl Buell holds a two-day open house at her studio in Winslow to display her pottery. The exhibit is a popular place to visit during the December showing. This year, an enthusiastic crowd began to show up as soon as the doors opened. It only takes a quick tour of the well-stocked studio to understand why Cheryl has such a following.
Colorful three dimensional designs inspired by painter Gunther Gorgo adorn one wall; a table filled with her popular chocolate and cherries design attracts a crowd, and the poppies painted on large bowls and many smaller pieces continue to be popular.
During a brief pause, Cheryl says that she feels lucky to have so much support.
“I’m at the Farmer’s Market in Fayetteville every Saturday from April through November. I receive suchsupport from the folks in Northwest Arkansas,” she says. “They have supported my work throughout the years and [that] enabled me to grow into the artist I am today. I have been at the market for 13 years.”
The studio in Winslow is only open during the annual open house. Her pottery is also available at Terra Studios in Durham.
It’s difficult to believe, looking at Cheryl, that she participated in her first craft show 31 years go. Her work won the Best Craftsman award at the Ozark Native Craft Shop, now Ozark Folkways, in Winslow in 1982, the first year the Buells lived in Winslow.
For 12 years, she and her husband Larry followed craft fairs in several states, but after their two children were born, packing and unpacking and so much travelling became too difficult. Larry now teaches 7th gradescience at West Fork.
Cheryl spends the rest of the time at her potter’s wheel. There she creates the beautiful and unique pottery that has become so popular over the years.
“Everything starts as a piece of clay,” she explains. “Then it is formed, thrown, rolled into a slab, extruded or pinched and formed with only my hands(like the frogs) then it is left to air dry, which can be from a couple of days to 3 or more weeks.”
When she speaks of thrown, that is the term for sitting at her potter’s wheel and hand-forming each piece individually while the wheel rotates. In preparing for the kiln drying, each piece is treated differently, she explains. But the process consists of two separate drying processes, the final one after glazing turns the piece vitreous, which means it is microwaveable and oven safe, and both beautiful and desirable.
What she has accomplished has fulfilled a lifelong dream. Cheryl was a Manual Art Therapy major at the University of Central Arkansas, then spent two years and many workshops learning about clay. Looking at her work, one can spot the originality and creativity of this true artist in each piece.
Some of the visitors to the Open House shared their reasons for being there. Marcie Warren from Ft. Smith said this was her fourth visit. She owns several pieces and plans on buying more.
”It’s an amazing event,” says Stephanie Daniels from Fayetteville. “We look forward to it every year.”
Cathy bustles in with a list in hand and tells me she has orders from a friend who also wants her to get pictures.
One fellow walks by carrying two of the poppy-designed coffee mugs. “I really came for the peanut brittle,” he jokes, and heads for the table of goodies. All, by the way, made by Cheryl in her kitchen. There are several kinds of cookies, stuffed dates, plates of candy, hot apple cider and coffee. But despite the food, the main attraction remains the exquisite pottery. Much of it is wrapped and bagged as people eagerly make their purchases.
A group of five women from Jacksonville bustle in the door. One is Cheryl’s sister Cindy, and she brought along Kelly, Marcia, Madison and Ann, who’s the only one here for the first time.
The crowd continues to grow. An exclamation of “Wow” is heard when two women open the door and catch first sight of the displays.
Cheryl’s aunt, Charli Dillree, starts chatting. She comes up every year from Hot Springs Village and saysshe has some of her niece’s earliest pieces on display in her home. “Cheryl says ‘Why do you put those out?'” she says with a laugh, “but I love them.”
Before leaving, Cheryl introduces me to her mother, Lanell Jones, and we chat a while about her daughter and cooking and exchange a recipe or two. It’s obvious Lanell is quite proud of Cheryl’s success.
Around us the crowd never seems to thin out. Chattering groups leave through one door carrying bags of wares, while others pour in the other door to replace them. Clearly Cheryl is right. Her community does support her in a big way, and it’s easy to see why.