Potter Frances Gamewell said nothing makes her happier than to work in clay.
"It is the process I love," she said.
Macular degeneration has made that process even more challenging.
"I can't read my formulas anymore," Gamewell said of mixing her glazes. "I get angry when it doesn't turn out the way I envisioned it."
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Yet she perseveres.
"I refuse to give up," she said firmly.
Gamewell, 74, has taken art classes through the Metrolina Association for the Blind. She loved it so much that she volunteered to teach a class in clay.
"Clay is hands-on, and it has texture," she said. "You can do so many things."
Gamewell has been making pottery since 1982. She's studied at Arrowmont School of Art, Penland School of Art and Campbell Folk School and taken classes with master potters and artists.
"I love the creative process," she said. "After that, I'm lost. I can't market myself. I can't price my work."
Gamewell hemmed and hawed when asked the price of a piece of pottery.
"Well, how much do you think it should be?" she said.
She donates pieces to many fundraisers and sells her work to friends and family.
"I guess that's my marketing," she said.
She's a studio potter, she said, not a production potter. Her vision loss means she's gone through a process of adapting how she works.
"But when you've been doing something so many years, it comes natural to me," she said.
Although she makes functional pots, lately she's turning toward more artistic pieces and hand-built pieces.
"Nothing I make is perfect," she said, "but it's art. It's beauty."
At the moment, she's exploring textures. Her bowls and other pieces are full of various patterns. She uses tools as simple as a spiral notebook wire.
In her studio is a bowl of all sorts of stuff: black walnuts, shells, bamboo, coral, Indian corn, peach pits. Her main tools are her wheel, extruder and slab roller. She loves pressing things into clay to see what kinds of patterns emerge.
She pulled one piece from the bookshelves where her work is displayed. She calls it a fruit bowl. It's a shallow, latticework piece.
"I hope this will be my signature piece," she said. "I've never seen one done this way. When you put it on a table, it casts a shadow.
"It's abstract art."
She also likes putting shell or fish appliqués on pottery baskets and bowls for yet another three-dimensional effect. She makes orchid pots and berry bowls and even a few mugs when she absolutely has to.
If you want a set of six mugs, she tells friends, go to the store.
She gets a lot of ideas from family and friends. Whenever someone says she needs something, Gamewell rushes down to her studio to get to work.
She's passing her artistic gifts on to her granddaughters, Rachel and Catherine, who call her "Gigi."
"I think my greatest joy is to have grandchildren to teach," Gamewell said.