TOE RIVER ARTS | THE STORIES
JOHN GECI & COURTNEY MARTIN
The morning had a crisp coolness to it even though the sun was cresting over the hillside. Inside the metal building, hot ovens burned a bright orange as John Geci steadily held a long metal rod in the flames. After a few minutes, he pulled it out. Molten hot glass formed a blob around the tip—the start of a bowl, blue inside, crystalline clear out.
“A lot of what impacts or influences my work is trial and error because I do a production-type style. I find that as time passes, the work evolves. I find aspects that I like in a particular piece and extend them. I expel those parts I don’t find so compelling. My work changes, grows over time,” he said as he rolled the rod back and forth, shaping the soft, almost liquid glass.
Half of the studio showcases his finished works—jewel-like bowls and vases of blues, oranges, greens. The other half displays clay dinnerware in blacks, beiges, browns with geometric patterns that recall native textiles. “I like to look at a lot of traditional forms of pottery and at a lot of textiles and patterns, like African mud cloth and Iranian designwork,” offered Courtney, John’s wife.
Courtney Martin and John Geci are local artists who have made their home and studios near Penland School in Bakersville. As with many couples, they met at the school and remained in the area, creating a life and a home for their family.
Courtney throws clay fired in her massive wood kiln; John blows glass. Each fell in love with their individual craft—the moment she touched a wheel, he lit a furnace—and still feel the magic and sense of pride and accomplishment each time they finish a piece.
“I realize it sounds cliché, but the first day I tried blowing glass, I was hooked. Then, it was only a matter of figuring out how I could continue to learn and do. Now, I think I have.”
“I’ve never done anything else. I’ve always worked with my hands and done art in one form or another. Once I started making pots in college, that’s all I wanted to do. You know, it’s a nice lifestyle … getting to work on our own property, and being self-employed. Which that isn’t always easy, but it works for us,” said Courtney.
Running a business plus raising two kids and a dog or two, and managing a huge summer garden, makes for a busy life. But they make it work, and it gives them the flexibility to spend time with their family. And it’s paid off. Both are well known across the country.
“Both of us work on a relatively small scale in terms of dollars per. Think of an artist represented by one gallery that shows only one piece, valued at over $30,000. That artist is going to do everything they can to sell that one piece,” said Courtney, “but that’s not the way we work. It’s different, more hand and eye friendly. Still small scale, but we’re able to spend more time on more things. It’s a different way of working. And it works for us.
“This is an area that attracts people to stop by and look at art.” Each has a separate studio, but they share a showcase. “Visitors, collectors might come specifically to see Courtney’s work, but then they’ll get to view mine. And vice versa. It’s a friendly coattail’s ride, and we both benefit.”