Born and raised in Mooresboro, a small town in the foothills of North Carolina. Tom has been producing traditional wood-fired ceramics since 1993. After exploring other creative venues, Tom was drawn to pottery and then enrolled in his first class. John King, his instructor, fostered an appreciation for hand-turned stoneware.

Reading the Dr. Terry Zug book, Turners and Burners, led Tom to appreciate the rich history behind the churns, jugs and jars that he grew up with at his parents’ and grandparents’ homes. Wood-fired stoneware seemed to be a good fit for Tom’s resourceful nature, since he could be involved in every aspect of its’ production. Drawing on skills and knowledge gleaned from growing up in the country, working in his father’s garage, and his chosen trade as a welder-fabricator, Tom has put many of the skills that he has learned to good use furthering his craft. His father, Roy, and a small group of family and  friends have helped Tom build his own wood-fired groundhog kiln, a pottery shop constructed from lumber harvested on family land and many of the tools and equipment needed to produce his wares. From digging and processing the local clays, sawing and stacking the pine slabs to developing his own unique take on a centuries old ash glaze, introduced into the region more than a hundred and fifty years ago, Tom’s hands-on kinesthetic nature is satisfied.

Tom was bestowed the moniker, “Potter At Large”, because of his imposing stature. At 6’3, well over 300 pounds, Tom’s appearance does not lend one to consider the stereotypical image of a potter. At first glance, the ever-present wardrobe of overalls and Carhartt  portray Tom’s profession as a welder/welding instructor. However, he has no trouble transitioning into craftsman mode.  Tom realizes that most Catawba Valley potters wore more than one “hat”. Many were farmers or tradesmen as well as being a potter. Local legend, Burlon Craig, being a prime example. Tom says, “Making pots is what I do, it is not what I am. I like to express my creative sense in many different ways, whether it is welding, teaching, making music, or turning pots. Clay is but one facet of the complicated creature that I am. To paraphrase BB Craig, I am just a big guy who makes some pots.”
Tom Whitaker