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He Gets a Kick out of Bricks

joshbricksx.jpg My Asheville potter son, Josh Copus, is a self-confessed brick geek. He collects found bricks, recycles old bricks, makes his own bricks, and builds wood fire kilns with bricks.

It’s been more than three years since he harvested a lifetime supply of clay from a tobacco farmer’s field, and more than two years since his UNCA thesis show that featured his wild clay pottery and several art installations made from his handcrafted bricks.

Now, in what Josh calls “a defining moment,” he has manifested an infinite supply of bricks, more than enough to build a couple more wood fire kilns on his Marshall County Community Temple compound, a three acre property that already houses the three-tiered Noborigama climbing kiln that Josh built. pipevbr.jpg Because of the Noborigama kiln, the property has already begun to be a destination for potters from all over the country.

A friend put Josh in touch with one of the owners of a major brick plant down south. Josh had just finished visiting the plant and was hauling a truckload of seconds (bricks slightly under company standards) back north to his property when he phoned me. “It’s an absolute goldmine, a shinning pile of light,” he said with excitement.

Describing the plant operation, he said, “The volume and operation is hard to fathom.” Twenty-four hours a day bricks of every shape and size you can dream up are made on train cars and fired in a train kiln the length of a football field, he explained.

Josh’s enthusiasm was contagious, as he expressed his liberating sense of support, gratefulness for having had the opportunity to talk shop with a fellow brick geek at the plant, and appreciation for the alignment that allowed the fortuitous turn of events. cbri.jpg His respect for the tradition of bricks was apparent.

“Nothing would have happened without bricks,” he said. I remembered the BFA show, the theme of which grew from a found clay pipe (power), a clay vessel (food) and a brick (shelter), and his12 foot tall and 20 foot wide brick wall that demonstrated the strength of a collective with the word INDIVIDUAL stamped on each one. Other bricks stamped with the word COMMUNITY continued the theme and reflected the name of the show, “Building Community.”

I thought about the role that clay has played in civilization, and then about the Industrial Revolution as Josh explained that the plant makes bricks that can withstand the high temperatures of furnaces.jshb.jpg They supply an aluminum smelting ore company and other industrial refractory plants, like those for making steel.

I jotted notes as he talked. His knowledge of clay and firing began to go over my head. Soon he was sounding like an alchemist/chemist using phrases like “melting points relative to partial size…” and words like “flux.”

“When they write the book, this will be a whole chapter,” Josh said with the excitement of a chocolate loving kid who had just visited the Willie Wonka factory. As far as he was concerned the cargo he was hauling could have been bricks of gold, or the gold at the end of a rainbow, payday for a few years of non-stop hard work.

Post Note: Click and scroll down HERE for archived stories and photos recording Josh’s career as potter, kiln builder, and ClaySpace Coop founder.


How exciting. You must be very proud of him. It's lovely to have an off spring who is creatively inclined. I wonder what first sparked his interest and how old he was at the time?
Netchick sends her best.

I'm sure it's told somewhere in the archives. Short answer: Josh was an artist since he could hold a crayon and his love of fire was evident from the fireman slicker, hat, and boots he wore for weeks when he was three or four. He made his first piece of pottery in our neighbor Jayn's studio and remembers being disappointed by how it did not come out like he had envisioned. Maybe that helped set him on the course of further creation. He was also mentored as a young man by Floyd potter Tom Phelps. http://www.potterystuff.com/

That's amazing! Imagine having that level of creativity and dedication!

The best thing is that this is HIS PASSION. And I think it is so important for the next generation to do what they love instead of what they could do to get rich. And I wish I had his creativity!

I will never look at bricks the same way again.

Hi Colleen... I send myself by to say hello ;)

Wow, that is such a cool project. Thank you for reminding me about clay. It's been years since I thought about that. I took a class in pottery and clay years ago, and I found it terribly interesting to work with these mediums, and what resulted from the kiln afterwards.

Thanks for enlightening me -- Josh is terribly cool in my books!

Well how cool is that. What an awesome young man! Thanks for the history lesson as well as the encouraging lesson in following your heart!

It brings me such joy to see someone so deeply committed to his art, his craft, his profession. Similarly, it jazzes me to see how supportive you are of your son. You're a template, Colleen, for how parents should be there for their adult kids. Beautifully said, as ever.

Thanks, Carmi. Your words mean a lot to me.

he is something isn't he?! i am in awe of potters because i love pottery so much and wish i could make it, too. one day we hope to see some of his work.

Josh is a gem as is his Mom. The story somewhat reminds me of how excited YOU were when we went bottle digging. Remember how excited you would get if you found a really OLD bottle. It is wonderful that he is living his dreams. xo

I think they are very related because each are like gifts from the earth. xo

It is exciting to just read about his passion and excitement!
I loved the whole idea of The Bricks and Community, as you know, Colleen....And for him to discover such "treasure"....WOW!
Most incredible....! It is also wonderfully exciting to think that Potters from all over the country come to Josh' Kiln...another WOW!

That's so cool that Josh scored inexpensive bricks for his projects! Refractory bricks are not cheap. I'll have to get in touch with him to see if he put fabric down before the crushed run for his driveway project. What an energetic and creative guy!! Kinda like his Mom!

i think ( but you know this) that it is your son who is made of solid gold.

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