People in Norwood may already know Goedele Vanhille, the town’s resident potter. Perhaps they’ve seen her studio on the west side of town. Those who’ve been inside Indian Ridge Bakery this holiday season have likely noticed her postcards on display there, too.
Vanhille has been working with clay since 1983. Then, she studied ceramics in Belgium. Later, she came to the U.S. and spent a semester in northern Nevada doing pottery, a place she’s traveled to frequently in her career as an artist. That’s also where she met her husband, John Fahnestock, who was a potter in Telluride years ago.
She’s had a studio Belgium. She’s also had her work featured in various places in the U.S. Currently, it’s housed in the Telluride Gallery of Fine Art.
Since 2001, Vanhille and her husband have been living in Norwood. There, she’s continued to make what she describes as functional ware and also non-functional sculptural ceramics.
Usually, she starts on a potter’s wheel — especially for pieces like teapots, plates, bowls, casseroles dishes and others. She creates her dinnerware in the fall, and later holds a sale during the holiday season. This year, that was held on Noel Night in Norwood, on Dec. 14. She said many people in town have come to appreciate her work, and the sale is she something she enjoys, as her local following gathers for a celebration.
After the holidays, she tends to focus on her artistic work.
Vanhille said the last three years, she has slowed down. She said some life changes have taken place, and she’s focused on other things. This last summer, though, she traveled back to Nevada for inspiration and spent a few weeks as an artist-in-residence.
That experience, she said, was quite fulfilling. Now, she’s creating more artwork, and said she’s looking to expand into other galleries again.
“I realized I really missed clay and got going again,” she said. “I was there two-and-a-half weeks. I was there as a student in the same place in 1983. That’s where I met John in 1989. I taught there in the early 90s a few times, so it was just very nice and inspiring.”
For Vanhille, the work seems to be a part of who she is. She said doing the functional artwork helps ground her and remind her of where she began.
But, she said she likes to play with color. She likes the chemistry of the ceramic glazes and seeing what she can do with textures. She added that the process is very experimental.
“I love ‘What if?’ questions,” she said. “There are so many ‘What if?’ questions.”
She said a potter is one who makes things which don’t always turn out as planned. She said the intense heat in the kiln can create unexpected outcomes. She said it takes a certain knowledge to work with the transformation of clay.
“You give it away and hope what you have done and what you knew works out,” she said. “But you get surprises — sometimes good and sometimes not so good.”
Art seems to run in the Vanhille’s family. She and her husband have three grown children. Two of them also hold art degrees. Another is still in college completing her study and unsure of what she will do at this point.
Those who wish to contact Vanhille or visit her Norwood studio can do so by calling 327-0369.