Michel Bayne is a newcomer to the Catawba Valley, but certainly not new to pottery. Born in 1959, Michel was raised in Tigerville, South Carolina. After high school, he worked for his family’s heating and air conditioning business for twenty five years before a work injury forced his early retirement.
A class at the Greenville Museum of Art in 1977 prompted his initial attraction to pottery. The studio pottery class was taught by Steve Ferrell, who later became an Edgefield master potter and historian. The Edgefield District of South Carolina is known for it’s rich pottery tradition that dates back to the early nineteenth century. Michel continued to make pottery as a hobby throughout his working career. After having surgery in 2003, when he realized he would not be able to return to work, Michel decided to turn pottery into his occupation. He gradually taught himself to make the basic forms and simple decoration. As his skill improved, his forms became much larger and his decoration much more ornate.
Michel quickly attained proficiency at making large vessels and simultaneously took Edgefield decorative techniques to the next level. Adding to traditional slip trailing technique, Michel also creates detailed scenes with underglaze. Motivated by his friendship with Columbia, SC potter Peter Lenzo, Michel began making more elaborate face jugs utilizing a special “inside out” technique. The sculptural features of these innovative creations are formed from by pressing from inside of the piece, and no clay features are added. The characteristics of some of Michel’s face jugs are inspired by late nineteenth and early twentieth century work by London’s famous Martin Brothers.
A portion of is work has also been inspired by the Catawba Valley’s graceful bulbous forms, runny ash glaze, and utilization of glass runs. It was ultimately the regions picturesque geography and rich pottery heritage that influenced Michel to move to Lincolnton in 2010. Michel and his wife settled in an 1869 farm house on a large plot a land. He has already renovated an old barn into his pottery shop and has dug clay on his property. Michel still uses his electric and gas kilns, but plans to fire his recently constructed wood kiln three times per year. He sells his work at various shows throughout the year, but is eager to host his first kiln opening at his new location.