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From the Winter 07/08 Made in KY Newsletter of the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.

Melvin Rowe:
Colonel of Clay

Louisvillian Melvin Rowe, an integral part of the Kentucky ceramics world for more than 30 years, loved creating as a child.  "I'd make things out of whatever I could get my hands on: oatmeal boxes, coat hangers, scrap wood," he says.

Melvin entered Western Kentucky University to study fine art to become a cartoonist, but upon taking ceramics became hooked on that instead.  He earned his B.F.A. at WKU and his M.A. in ceramics at the University of Louisville.  And he still loves it.  "It's 35 or so years later, and I still can't wait to open the kiln, to see the new stuff, the new experiments," he says.

For years while creating his own work, Melvin worked full-time, including serving as director of Metro Arts Center in Louisville, and also taught part-time.  In about 1981 he was offered a job in Montana, but he chose to stay in Louisville to become a full-time production potter.  "I knew I'd be better with the material if I threw 100 mugs a day rather than creating a space for others to do that," he says.

In the 1980's Melvin operated retail venues first in Bakery Square and then on Frankfort Avenue, where he has lived and operated his studio and shop ever since.  "Direct retail is about half of what we do," he says.  "I have a lot of repeat customers.  Some have been coming for over 25 years and have become friends."

Today Melvin also sells his work through wholesale and speciality accounts.  Melvin's diverse accounts include making religious vessels for churches and mugs for local bars.  "Flanagan's on Baxter--- I've made over 500 mug for their mug club," he says.  He also makes the mugs awarded to prize winners in the home-brewed beer competition at the Kentucky State Fair.

Wine carafes and decanters are among Melvin's favorite items to make, and he enjoys making wine as well.  In 2006 he won a first place ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair for his Colonel Mel's Green Apple Honey Mead, and this year he won a third place ribbon for his Heap Big Medicine Mouthwash and Pain Killer.  Part of Melvin's charm is a great sense of humor, which spills over into his wine labels.

Melvin notes the similarity between making wine and ceramics.  "The chemistry of wine making is similar to glaze chemistry," he says.  "You have to understand the ingredients and what something is going to be after going through the process."  Louisville is lucky to have Melvin going through these processes here.

 

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NOW Online in Gallery 2:

From the Realm of Roweheim, Fantasy Art by Melvin D. Rowe

 

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