I’m 66 years old and am just now beginning to hit my stride as a potter.

When I was in my mid-thirties,  I founded a ceramic materials company in Nashville, that specialized in developing glazes.  My plan was to sell the company when I reached retirement age and be a potter in the studio I’d built in my backyard.  When I was 48, I was approached by a large foreign company that was interested in buying my business.  The opportunity was there.  I took it.

There are three things that have been significant in my career as a potter that I would like to share with you.

Tom Turnbull in his studio

The first is my permanent display at the CDC in Atlanta (press release).  This happened very early in my career and gave me the confidence that I’d made the right decision to sell the business and become a potter.

CDC Atlanta Permanent Installation

The second is,  I am in the collection of Hubert de Givenchy.  For me, this is like winning an Oscar.  Potters don’t tend to get this sort of honor.

Hubert de Givenchy presented with Turnbull Pottery plate
Hubert de Givenchy in his apartment in Paris being presented a platter of mine by American Friends of Chantilly.

The third is Sylvia’s ashes.

Tom with Clay - Sylvia Hyman Ashes

Artist Leaves Plans For Her Remains As Meticulous As Her Sculptures

Tom Turnbull went to Hyman’s memorial expecting nothing more than to pay his respects to an old friend. After the service, he was surprised when Hyman’s son approached with the news that Turnbull had been mentioned in her will. Minutes later, Turnbull took possession of a portion of Hyman’s remains.Turnbull became friends with Sylvia Hyman about thirty years ago. At the time, he owned a ceramics supply business and she was one of his customers. He built a studio of his own in the late ‘90s and became a full time potter, but he still visited Hyman, talked with her about their craft, and, when he saw there was a need, he fixed her kiln.

Now, every time he prepares a new block of clay, Turnbull very carefully sprinkles a tiny amount of her ashes onto the wet earth. As he kneads and pounds to make the clay pliable, the two materials quickly mix and become indistinguishable.

Turnbull admires the way Hyman kept her own hands in clay until the end of her life and says he wants to keep adding her to his work as long as possible. According to his estimates, her remains will be in everything he sells for the next 10 to 15 years. That longevity of that effort seems all the more important as he thinks about her presence in the clay on his potting wheel.  “I feel like she’s having the time of her life,” Turnbull says, “like she is just jazzed about this and enjoying this like you wouldn’t believe.”

June 3, 2013
by Nina Cardona

Read the entire article from nashvillepublicmedia.org here: https://nashvillepublicmedia.org/blog/2013/06/03/artist-leaves-plans-for-her-remains-as-meticulous-as-her-sculptures