As a little boy growing up in the country, Joseph Sand loved to scoop up clay in the root cellar and form little cubes with it. It wasn’t until his early 20s, though, that he knew he would one day make his living as a potter.
Born in 1982 and raised outside the small, southern Minnesota town of Austin (pop. 24,718), Joseph excelled at art at an early age. He stored Play-Doh for his creations in the family’s broken dishwasher and learned to draw hockey players and other athletes while studying with a sports illustrator.
University of Minnesota
After graduating from high school in 2001, Joseph went to the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He planned to study graphic design, but after feeling detached from an art form that required him to use a computer, Joseph changed his mind. In 2006, he earned a BFA in general studio art with a ceramics emphasis.
Prior to graduating college, Joseph studied art for one year in Cortona, Italy, through the University of Georgia-Athens. It was there that he sat at a pottery kick wheel in a 12th Century building and knew instinctively how to center clay. His future career was born.
Back in the States, Joseph received the very competitive Katherine E. Sullivan Scholarship from the University of Minnesota. He used the scholarship to study art and design at the University of Wolverhampton, England.
Apprenticing with North Carolina’s Mark Hewitt
During his time in England, Joseph heard from other potters about Mark Hewitt, an English potter who lived in Pittsboro, N.C. While back in Minnesota at Christmastime, a potter he knew had completed an apprenticeship with Mark and suggested Joseph do the same. Joseph talked with Mark over the telephone, and then flew to North Carolina to meet him the following week. After three days, Joseph was offered the three-and-a-half year apprenticeship under the master potter.
To learn more about Joseph’s apprenticeship with Mark, listen to this interview on Craft in America.
Joseph met his wife, Amanda, at a wedding in Duluth, Minn., during his senior year in college. The couple married in 2007 and have two adorable, goofball sons, Owen and Jacob. The family lives on 16 acres near Randleman, where they established a pottery.
Joseph built, brick by brick, a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide kiln, which he fires using pine slab offcuts from a local sawmill. Joseph based his kiln off of the anagama kilns, a type of kiln brought to Japan from China via Korea in the 5th Century. He was able to build the kiln thanks to a loan from a friend, crowdsourcing funds, and receiving the Ella Fountain Pratt Emerging Artist Award from the Durham Arts Council.
Joseph combines the styles of traditional, Southern alkaline glaze ware and East Asian design, among others. Using two wood-fired kilns, he produces both salt and ash-glazed wares, ranging in size from very large sculptural vases to planters and a variety of beautiful, functional tableware. In 2015, he expanded his creative range to include large, hand-built sculptural ceramics.
Over the years, Joseph has received many grants, honors, and awards. He has also participated in a variety of exhibitions. Read his resume to learn more.
My ceramic work is created in the heart of North Carolina: Randolph County. In 2010, I built, brick by North Carolina brick, a 40-foot-long, 8-foot-wide kiln on my property outside of Randleman. This unique kiln not only allows me to wood-fire a large body of work, but to infuse my pottery quite literally with the spirit of the Piedmont Triad.
If you look closely at my work, you will see the red North Carolina clay I use to shape everything from coffee cups to large sculptural outdoor planters. I fire the kiln with pine slab offcuts from a local sawmill. Three times a year, I invite the community to kiln openings so they can see my work, talk with me, meet my wife Amanda and our two young sons, and take home a piece of authentic North Carolina pottery. The best part of my potter’s life is meeting my customers face to face and witnessing their excitement and pleasure in viewing, holding and owning—or giving as gifts—my work.
I’m grateful to Pittsboro potter, Mark Hewitt, for allowing me to apprentice with him for three and a half years. Because of my training with Mark, who is originally from England, I learned how to create functional pottery in the English tradition, including incorporating the fluid, slip-trailed lines and rounded form I admire. My work has also been influenced through my exploration of the South’s historic alkaline and salt-glazed pottery as well as colorful glazes. My glaze experimentation relates directly to my love of nature, reminding me of the diverse properties of the elements.
Having worked and trained primarily on the wheel, since 2015 I have expanded my work to include hand-built sculptures—some as high as five feet tall. Just as I do with all of my ceramic work, I use locally dug clay bodies and select local clays for glazes that I know will react well in my kiln. The challenges and rewards of working with this off-the-wheel technique adds to my love of my work as a ceramic artist and helps me connect even more to this place I call home: the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.
in the Media
Waynette Goodson, "Outdoor Artistry: Fusing Pottery with Peonies." Exterior Design Magazine, Volume 4, 2018
Pottery Making Illustrated - "In the Potter's Kitchen:Large Serving Platter." January/February 2018
Ceramics Monthly - "Studio Visit: Joseph Sand." June/July/August 2018
Austin Living Magazine, July-Aug 2015. p35.
Stephen C. Compton, Seagrove Potteries Through Time, Charleston: Fonthill Media. 2015.
Richard Garkalns, “Home is where your passion is!” The Randolph Guide, Asheboro, NC, December 31, 2014. 1-3A.
Southern Living Magazine - "Container of the Month.” March 2014
Judi Brinegar, “Potter’s Journey Turns to Randolph,” The Courier Tribune, Asheboro, NC. July 9, 2011. p1-2A.
Asheboro Magazine, exhibition announcement with photos, Asheboro, NC, no. 23 (June 2012). p30-31.
Ceramics Monthly - "Brick ‘Buy’ Brick.” June/July/August 2011
Judi Brinegar, Thrive Magazine, “Joseph Sand: A New Potter with an Old Soul”
Michael Abatemarco, “Art in Review: ‘Pottery of the U.S. South’ at the Museum of International Folk Art, Pasatiempo: The New Mexican, Nov. 28, 2014
Natalie Wilson. Featured Roy’s Folks Artist. WGHP-TV. High Point, NC. Nov. 12, 2015.
Roy Ackland. “Randolph County Man Making a Name for Himself in Pottery World.” Roy’s Folks.WGHP-TV, High Point, NC. Aug. 17, 2015
Craft in America, "Joseph Sand on his apprenticeship with Mark Hewitt"