Updated: Dec 4, 2020
As the recent snowfall recedes, Tyrrell County residents should take the opportunity to visit the Kilianware studio at 1375 Old Columbia Road at the Souhegan Farmstead. Thomas Kilian, the potter at the farmstead, also has a website killianware.com that describes his life and work. "My journey with clay began when I was seven years of age. I opened up my first studio six years ago with only a couple of years of minor classes," says Kilian. In the past 11 years, Kilian has explored ceramics from Pennsylvania, Staffordshire, Ancient Egypt, South Sudan, Ancient Persia, and Japan.
Kilian describes his work as "remixes" of old and new as well as historic and modern. "Pottery has been in this world ever since the creation of man. I find it astonishing that the principles of throwing clay vessels have not changed, and only a few methods have. With this in mind, I create my boutique pieces. My creative yet useful work has won many awards, which only shows a glimpse of my passion for my ceramics," says Kilian.
Kilian and his family arrived in Columbia eleven years ago, February 2003. The spring presented a new opportunity for Thomas and his twin sister, Helen, to experience creations and creatures indigenous to the Inner Banks. Thomas shares: "I remember being inspired by the crayfish's ability to create a cylinder shape. I immediately severed the chimneys that the crayfish built and dried them on planks of wood. To me, they were pieces of art. I began digging my clay, played around with it, and took an interest in pottery almost immediately."
While Thomas has not been the only potter to be inspired by nature, he is one of the few North Carolina potters outside of Seagrove to specifically host a gallery, studio, and website of his own. In July 2009, Our State Magazine featured an article on the Kilian family entitled "Banking on Art," reporting his family's quest to stimulate an artistic economy in the Inner Banks by launching a website that promotes artists' work the region entitled IBXarts.org. People began to notice Thomas when he demonstrated his Heritage Pottery on a kick wheel at Historical Somerset Plantation in Creswell.
Susan Kluttz, Secretary of North Carolina's Department of Cultural Resources, has visited his booth during the state's "Second Saturday's" event and purchased it for her collection. "Knowing how influential Ms. Susan is and the interest she took in my work was an affirmation to me that I'm helping the state preserve something significant," said Kilian. Kilian explained that a significant difference in his work is authenticity. He develops his glazes and has been unfettered by conventional training. "Having a host of natural and historical items among the Inner Banks farmstead environment serves as a wellspring of inspiration that cultivates a personal approach that is uncommon," he said.
When asked about what advice he would give to someone that desired to begin pottery as a hobby or a business, Thomas shares: "If you want to be original, go with your passion and don't look at others as a guide. If you go with the most conventional marketing and theory, you will lack authenticity. Your passion, experiences, and desire will allow you to produce your voice in the art community. Also, be willing to make a lot of mistakes".
Kilianware's functional wares have reached homes in Florida, Idaho, California, Kenya & South Sudan. "Ironically, my modern pottery designs are variations by observations of ancient world pottery," Kilian said.
Kilian has two pieces entered in an International Ceramics Festival in Mino, Japan. The work entitled "Alexander" explores "Culture Dominance" and is a fusion of the Alexandrian conquest, combining Persian and Egyptian influences. A friendly and familiar piece entitled "Cowboys and Indians" deals with the cultural clashes and tension between Native American pottery and pioneer folk art design. Kilian's work is available to purchase by visiting the Kilianware studio at 1375 Old Columbia Road at the Souhegan farmstead or online at www.kilianware.com
Published on February 20, 2014, by Washington Daily News in the "Scuppernong Reminder"