When 72-year-old Charles “Doc” Beard retired from Mecklenburg County Law Enforcement 12 years ago, he needed something to do. Not married at the time, he found the unstructured days a little lonely and disconcerting.
He turned to clay and found his passion.
Over the past decade he’s made countless bowls, mugs, pitchers and other practical items. He’s also shaped many fanciful pieces such as dragon eggs, dragon claws, mugs with feet and more. The money he makes from pottery sales he donates to his church, Philadelphia Presbyterian.
“When I’m doing it I tend to not think of any problems or troubles or politics. Nothing bothers me. And it’s something I can do for the church,” Beard said.
His studio is set up in the annex of an authentic log cabin that stands beside his Mint Hill home. He moved the cabin, circa1830, from Davidson in 1976. For years he used it as a place to go and think, even though it was only a few steps from his house.
“I would sit in there with my old cat and just stare at the fire. While everyone was out making all the noise, like on New Year’s Eve, we would just sit there and relax,” said Beard.
The cat’s now gone, but Beard and the cabin have taken on new lives.
He’s since remarried, a few months ago turned the cabin into a rustic gallery and workshop, and brought on board a pottery mate, Lois Edwards, who works with him most days.
Edwards, 71, was an old friend he ran into in the grocery store shortly after her retirement. When she mentioned that she was a little confused about what to do with all her new-found spare time, Beard invited her to drop by his house and make a pot. She did, and she was hooked.
For Edwards, it’s a special experience each time she creates a new piece.
“I like the feel of clay in my hands. I guess I like mud. I like getting it to do what I want it to do. I like taking a glob of mud and making something out of it, though it doesn’t always turn out the way I think,” Edwards said.
They worked together at several different locations, but finally decided to move to the cabin, the perfect spot where they have total say over hours, kiln time, and all the other factors artists long to control.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, wife Diane Beard, who semi-retired from her job last month, decided to try her luck with clay. She took a few lessons from Rachel Hoover, a professional potter in Mint Hill, and now she, too, is hooked.
“I’m learning to hand build, and it’s fascinating. I just got back the things I made and it feels very special that my name is on the pieces that I created. It’s also gratifying to think that other people may actually buy something I made and take it to their home to enjoy. This is especially exciting because we are all three in it together,” Beard said.
Doc Beard and Edwards spend about 20 hours each week in the studio with Diane Beard joining them when she can.
She loves working with clay, and she loves the camaraderie. But most of all, she says, she marvels at her husband’s generosity.
“I’m just amazed at his charitable attitude. For all these years he has donated his pottery to the Women of the Church at Philadelphia Presbyterian. He’s had many offers to sell it at various stores and shows, but he always says, ‘No, I want to give it to the women.’ His main purpose is to do it as a charitable benefit.”