“It’s a magical place in the woods, where people are quietly making careful, quality-made ceramic objects.”
That’s Casey Papendieck’s simple definition of Turtle Farm Pottery. The three-person operation makes it look simple to turn out mugs, bowls and vases, but it’s taken more than a decade for all the pieces to fall in place.
“It’s what I wanted to do since I was 17. I got sidetracked, traveling around, falling in love, all kinds of stuff,” said Papendieck, the owner, whose love for working with clay stared in high school.
Papendieck not only spins clay, he can spin tales of his life as a drifter. The Oregon native has been a street preacher, a migrant worker, a surfer and a mountain climber. He met his wife, Laura Gregory. in Austin, Texas and they spent a lot of time traveling. A rock-climbing trip to the Red River Gorge is what caused them both to finally settle down.
“People have told us that Casey and I are rare birds here because we don’t have any family here.,” Gregory said. “We didn’t move here for jobs. We really moved here because we just love it here.”
And there’s a lot to love on their Wolfe County farm, where a little more than a year ago, Papendieck finally set up that pottery he’s always wanted. He is how a master potter, with a degree from Berea College.
Resident artist Noah Broomfield, a Berea native, has also found his happy place.
“I go to the city for groceries and hear sirens and people cut each other off on the road,” Broomfield said. “It’s a lot different out here and I feel incredibly fortunate to be part of something that feels so good.”
The artwork they produce.. and that’s what it is… is sold at shops throughout the gorge and now, online. The shipping operation is pretty simple. Items are boxed and addressed on the front porch of their home. Delivery trucks come a couple of times a week to take the pottery to buyers all over the country.
But pottery isn’t their only passion.
Casey and Laura are two-thirds of a band called “The Handshake Deals.” They describe their music as “quirky Americana.” They’ve played at festivals throughout the region and you can often find them practicing in front of the woodpile on their farm, with an upright bass in hand, or perhaps, an accordian.
Pottery is all about shaping things. Turtle Farm is shaping up to be just what the owners had hoped– a place where work and play go hand in hand.