By Bob Heafner © 1983-2012
Issue: June, 1983
U.S. Highway 221 runs between Floyd and Hillsville, Virginia. About halfway between these two towns is Dugspur. Dugspur, Virginia is only a wide spot in the road with a small, one room Post Office, a few stores and an elementary school. Beyond Dugspur is Deepwater. Deepwater is the home of David Greenbaum, the potter.
When I first heard of David, I was told that the road into his house would be extremely rough but I wasn’t prepared for what I found. We traveled the little winding paved roads that led back toward Max Mountain. Suddenly the pavement ends and the road plunges 500 feet down a mountainside, twisting and winding to the gorge below. A small river and the road barely have room between the steep mountains rising on either side. As you travel up the road, there are old farm houses and scenes that are reminiscent of a hundred years ago. Swinging bridges lead to cabins nestled back in hollows a half mile off the road.
As we got to the driveway leading to the Greenbaum’s, we crossed a small bridge and from this point on we traveled on a narrow, winding, sometimes steep and almost impassable small logging road. We wound our way over a mountain to the other side to reach David Greenbaum. The road at times had ruts a foot deep and my old ’71 Ford had to really tax itself to pull some of the grades and cross some of the gullies, but eventually, we found our way in, crossing meadows and high ridges where the view is spectacular and down a shady, wooded lane where Lady Slippers bloomed in the middle of the road to Greenbaum’s studio.
Since David wasn’t at the studio, we had to park our car there and walk another quarter of a mile, winding down a trail shaded with Rhododendrons to their home. Along the path, David Greenbaum’s pottery was displayed nestled on old rotten logs and sitting in the forks of shrubs. No museum in the world could have displayed them any better. Here, in a natural environment, his pottery fit in, blending with the surroundings and exhibiting the natural styles which he has created.
David, his wife Joann and their two small sons live in a round home (built by David) of vertical logs with a conical shaped roof, nestled in a hollow where an old house used to be years ago.
The hollow was known locally as Henry Hollow; thus, the name “Henry Hollow Pottery.” David is a young man, only thirty years old but he has been working with pottery for 10 years. He was a resident of Jackson, New Jersey before coming to Virginia.
While in New Jersey, he employed three other potters and sold to major department store chains but it got to be more business than art so he decided to leave New Jersey and find a place where he could go about his work in the solitude and peace that can only be found with nature. He lived in Floyd County, Virginia for three years and has lived in Henry Hollow for one year.
His work is on display and available for purchase at The Incorporated Gallery in New York City, The Jackie Chalkey Gallery in Washington, DC, The Hanson Gallery in Houston, Texas, and The Joan Ling Gallery in Gainesville, Florida. Several times a year he attends craft shows: The Winter Market in Baltimore, Maryland; the Dallas Craft Fair in Dallas, Texas; and the one he is preparing for now, the Rhinebeck Craft Fair, which is sponsored by the American Crafts Council annually in Rhinebeck, New York. It is “THE” craft fair in the nation.
In Henry Hollow there is no electricity, no indoor plumbing, only peace with nature that could be found no where except the Blue Ridge. David has developed his own distinct style of pottery making. Currently most of his work is by the “Sagger” fired method, where each piece is placed inside a container packed with sawdust around it and fired in the kiln to give it a deep black luster. No glaze is used in this method. Each piece is then buffed with a piece of Jasper or other hard materials.
He comes out of Henry Hollow perhaps once a month to go into town for the necessities and to ship his work to various galleries across the country. His work sells from $70.00 to $500.00 per piece. Each piece is signed with a very distinct signature. In David Greenbaum’s own words, “My pottery is my soul.” This is quickly apparent due to the quality of his work.
His wife, Joann, has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maryland and they will be taking a two year leave of absence from Henry Hollow beginning in July, when they will move to Gainesville, Florida. There Joann will attend Santa Fe Community College in order to further her studies of graphic art. She is currently illustrating a children’s book written by Ron Yard, of Floyd County.
The evening I met the Greenbaum’s, I knocked on their door as they were finishing supper. Since the light was fading fast for the day, we almost immediately climbed back up the trail, out of Henry Hollow, to the studio at the top of the hill. As he walked his four year old son pointed out a tree where he said the “elves” live. “They leave us presents.” This was later explained by David and Joann, who occasionally leave presents for the children to find in the hollow of the tree, sparking the imagination of the children that elves leave them there.
When we reached his studio, David showed me through and pointed out some of his works. It is apparent that here is a dedicated artist, someone that would give up what most of us consider the necessary comforts of life in order to devote himself to his art. As we stood by the small cottage which he built and uses for a studio, I took photos of various pieces of work he had on hand. It was apparent that David doesn’t want to leave Henry Hollow, but in order to further his wife’s educational goals, he is willing to do so.
Here in Henry Hollow is an example of someone who considers their art before their own comfort; who considers serenity and peace with nature to be more important and rewarding than the price paid for “city comforts.” One can only imagine the determination required for such for such a transition from New Jersey to Henry Hollow. He is truly a dedicated artist.
If you ever get a chance to see David Greenbaum’s pottery or buy it, know that it is truly a work of art created by a master potter whose heart will always be in Henry Hollow