"S" Stands for "Super"
Volume 4, Number 8
By Jane Powell
Cows once reigned in the dairy barn that is now a pottery workshop and sales gallery in Murfreesboro--namely, Studio S.
Today Studio S' owner, Lewis Snyder, and three fellow potters are the barn's prime attention-getters.
Snyder, a master potter and director of the Crafts Division of the Tennessee Arts Commission, along with his wife, Wilda, shop proprietor, have molded the barn into an adventurous, design-conscious and hospitable pottery business. Located at 1426 Avon Road, the remodeled dairy barn's rustic architectural detail constantly attracts camera enthusiasts and out-of-town visitors.
The studio's barn shape has been handsomely rehoused inside and out with more than 7,500 board feet of western red cedar. An 18 by 10-foot arched front window dramatizes the entrance which is spotlighted with clay and glass lanterns. Stairs and desks wrap the building and add to it invitingness.
When the Snyders bought the barn, they discovered 50 windows and 40 doors which had been stored in the hayloft. They creatively recycled the glass from the windows for use in the large front window. The wood from the doors was used for constructing outside tables.
Helping the Snyders with the redesign of the barn was architect Morris Parker who gave the large front sales gallery a warm, welcoming, down-to-earth feeling. The richness of the wooden cedar walls blends with textured concrete floors making it a striking showcase fo the potters' ceramic wares.
The side shed, where cows were once washed before being milked, is dominated by pottery throw wheels where Lewis and fellow potters give life to shapeless hunks of clay.
Adjacent to the throw wheel area in the back are kilns and glazing facilities. Lewis ingeniously constructed his first kiln with the barn's silo, an ideal firing structure. This kiln along with two gas-reduction kilns, a 40 cubic foot salt kiln, a raku kiln and four electric kiilns, are used by the Studio S craftsmen.
The Studio S potters have more recently been experimenting with raku, salt, primitive firing techniques and kiln building. The raku kiln, which is located in the back yard, adopts an ancient Japanese and Chinese technique for glazing clay forms producing rich, metallic colors.
Nine years ago, a pottery shop was merely a yearning which the Snyders shared. Today, Studio S is acclaimed as one of the finest private pottery shops of its kind.
When the Snyders were looking for a suitable structure to house their proposed studio, Lewis was an assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University where he developed clay sculpture and jewelry programs.
"As the programs developed and more and more students became involved, I realized that the classroom was taking me away from the potter's wheel and I began seeking aplace of my own to retreat and work," says Lewis.
He also wanted a place where dedicated, gifted students could pursue their ability and profit by marketing their work. He currently has three potters who use the Studio S facilities and who display their work for sale on a comission basis.
Lewis says that students are encouraged in an academic atmosphere but shortly after graduation become dismayed at such eye-openers as the cost of a pound of clay.
"Pottery is a sharing and learning-from-each-other art." emphasizes Lewis.
Studio S becomes a classroom for interested novice potters who enroll in an introductory pottery course. The 10-week course, which furnishes all materials, costs $55 for adults and $45 for children who are in grades four through eight. The only class prerequisite is that students have some design ability," add the Snyders.
Not only do local pottery students have the change to learn from Lewis, but also craftsmen across the country who attend workshops which he conducts. In fact, he was one of the first two Americans to be invited abroad to participate in the International Ceramic Symposium. He helped organize and conduct the First United States International Ceramic Symposium held in Memphis in 1973 and the Second United States International Ceramic Symposium held in Gatlinburg last summer.
Howard Stringer, one of numerous Lewis Snyder and Studio S fans, confirms that Lewis is a turn above the average potter at the wheel. Stringer, who is vice president of Colonial Clothing and who has commissioned Lewis to do several pieces of pottery for his home, says, " I travel a great deal and I've seen quite a large sampling of pottery, but I've found none to compare to the work at Studio S here in my hometown."
He continues that he gets the impression that most potters concentrate their efforts mainly on form. "Lewis does that but he also gives as much energy and time to the glazing process," stresses Stringer.
Glazing is the complicated coloring process which involves spraying, brushing, wax resist and respraying of a clay piece.
Studio S potters work and explore with more than 25 different glazes which offer a spectrum of more than 5,400 different color variations. "Most pottery shops only deal with two or three colors," adds Wilda.
The Snyders' customers are especially drawn to pottery glazed in natural earth colors which are develped by the reduction firing process.
Studio S' owner is acclaimed for his "people pots" which are his sculptural and figurative representatives of everyday life, the "earth spheres" which are pieces reflecting man's concern and search for the mysteries of the universe, torn folded-over edged bottles and wax resist trays withch capture his talent for form and color.
"Besides being a pottery business, Studio S has also gotten the reputation for being a Rutherford county tourist attraction," smiles Wilda, who explains that many Murfreesboro residents bring their visitors by the studio while on a sight-seeing venture.
She also says that people have called up wanting to schedule a time for recording music at the studio. That's why in the near future Studio S may acquire "Pottery" as its last name.
Customers are sometimes greeted by a likeable gray-haired gentleman. He's Aaron Snyder, Lerwis' uncle, who came to visit from West Virginia when the Snyders first bought the barn to remodel.
"I came to help with the remodeling and I've been here ever since doing carpenter work and landscaping design," says the elder Snyder.
A crackerjack wood craftsman, Aaron has made some beautiful wooden items such as plates, bowls and serving pieces which enhance a corner of the studio gallery.
Recently a young couple to be married visited Studio S and decided that they wanted Snyder pottery for their dinnerware selection. The order was a challenge for Lewis, who is accustomed to creating one-of-a-kind pottery items. The 45-piece, $400 set which the couple commissioned took several weeks to complete.
The couple's order gave Wilda a new idea for displaying the studio wares. Upstairs in the hayloft-turned-gallery, she plans to set up dining tables showing how pottery pieces may be used for serving a meal.
Presently, Studio S markets items from its sales gallery, special orders to selected shops like those at Opryland U.S.A., and commissioned murals and architectural sculptural forms.
For browsing, buying or having the opportunity of seeing pottery being made, Studio S is open to the public Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
Snyder's combination pottery workshop and sales gallery can be reached from Nashville by taking U.S. Highway 41 south to the outskirts of Murfreesboro and taking a left on Battleground Drive to Avon Road.
Adventurous, design-conscious, hospitable...
Lewis & Eric Snyder