All in a Rowe

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Local Arts

By Cindy DiFazio

Melvin Rowe, artist and creator of Louisville’s Pottery Rowe, has been shaping his world in clay since 1971.


But this will be his first year to go medieval in Henry County.

During a phone interview, Rowe said he was working on shaping clay into a two-and-a-half inch clay dragon that will slither up the side of a drinking mug to be peddled at the Kentucky Renaissance Faire this summer. Gargoyles and castles are not far behind.

Rowe attended Western Kentucky University studying fine arts. He planned to be a cartoonist, but got hooked on ceramics instead.
He earned his BFA at WKU and later earned his master’s degree in ceramics at the University of Louisville. “It’s 35 or so years later, and I still can’t wait to open the kiln, to see the new stuff, the new experiments,” he said.

Rowe served as director of the Metro Arts Center in Louisville, and taught part-time.

He is a juried member of the Kentucky Art and Craft Foundation, the Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen, and has been president of the Louisville Craftsman’s Guild.

Then in the early 1980s he was offered a job in Montana, but chose to stay in Louisville to become a full-time production potter.

In 1988 he opened the Pottery Rowe studio and showroom on Frankfort Avenue in Louisville.

In 2007, Rowe and his wife Vivian acted on another passion, horse ownership. The animals originally were boarded in Jefferson County, but as the couple’s stable grew so did the cost of boarding.

For awhile the horses stayed at Raintree Ranch in Pendleton, and then Rowe found a place big enough for people and horses. In November 2009, the Rowes moved into a house on 11 acres outside of Sulphur.

They named the place Roweheim. “Heim is German for homeplace,” Rowe said. “We don’t call it a farm, it’s more like a camp.” The Rowes have since added a barn, pond and fencing. “The doctor said we needed more exercise,” he joked.

Meanwhile, the herd has grown to include two miniature horses, two donkeys and an off-the-track thoroughbred.

Artistic inspiration, however, was free of charge.

Rowe discovered that the yellow clay soil on the property makes beautiful ceramic glazes.

A photo gallery on Rowe’s website, www.potteryrowe.com, showcases the new Roweheim Slip Pots. The description says that “slip glazes are glazes composed mostly, if not entirely, of clay. They are usually applied to a piece while it is still wet, and single fired. My horse farm in Henry County, Kentucky, named Roweheim, has a lot of yellow clay which I’ve found makes a rich and beautiful glaze all by itself. Loving glaze chemistry, I’ve completed many tests with this clay, and have developed a variety of glazes with it.”

Rowe produces several lines of functional pottery, but also has a flair for the whimsical.

Colonel Mel’s New Fangled Modern Miracle Bread Baker “makes baking bread easier than rocking in a rocker on a Sunday afternoon.”

Rowe joined the Henry County Arts and Craft Guild last year.

He said he worried when they moved from their urban landscape to the idylls of Henry County people would view them as city slicker outsiders. Rowe found out nothing could be farther from the truth.

“We’ve found everyone to be warm and welcoming,” he said, “and being part of the guild is just adding new friends.”

Rowe’s artistic mantra is “when the everyday object is special, every moment becomes special.”