Each year, Our State’s Made in NC Awards celebrate the talent and creativity of North Carolinians. Meet the state’s winners, honorable mentions, and judges. Check out all of this year’s
After Chris Pence and Mark Warren moved to a rustic cabin just outside of Durham’s Duke Forest and started their pottery business, Haand, with very little money, the two mostly worked outside and were exposed to the elements year-round. Even inside the cabin, there was no air-conditioning and only one wood stove. “It taught us a lot about perseverance,” Pence says of living and working there. “And it only strengthened our passion for what we were doing.”
Pence and Warren were friends in high school in Florida, and though they went to different colleges, they remained close. After graduate school, Pence, who’d discovered a love for pottery as a teen, completed a two-month concentration in clay at Penland School of Craft before starting a job in accounting. Warren followed, beginning a two-year core fellowship at Penland just after Pence left. There, he studied slip casting, a process of making pottery with molds.
When Pence quit his job, he and Warren began talking about slip casting. With his business and accounting background, Pence realized that the process was scalable, seeing as how you can train someone to slip-cast much more easily than to wheel-throw. Warren invited Pence, who was back in Florida at the time, to move into the cabin with him, and they got to work. It was physical labor, and nature posed challenges in the form of bug bites and bad weather. Because they worked under a persimmon tree, there was often the risk of the fruit falling and breaking a pot. But nature was also a benefit: The pair dried their molds in the sun and made porcelain pieces using rainwater.
Ten years later, Pence and Warren have more than 25 full-time employees who produce 1,500 pieces a week. Haand sends products from the former hosiery mill in Burlington where it now operates to customers worldwide, including restaurants in the Triangle, the Triad, Asheville, and Wilmington. Warren, who designs the work, draws inspiration from the natural world and from historical pottery. Haand’s Cloudware collection features marbled blue-and-white pieces that look like a Carolina sky. Though Pence and Warren are a long way from their humble beginnings, nature still plays a role in their creations.