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Local potter creates one-of-a-kind restaurant souvenirs

A pig holding toothpicks for tapas diners at Cúrate. Photo courtesy Instagram user @eric.rivera

A pig holding toothpicks for tapas diners at Cúrate. Photo courtesy Instagram user @eric.rivera

Tapas-style dining has long included the use of toothpicks. Diners use the toothpicks to spear a piece of food from a shared plate. At Cúrate, small ceramic pigs hold the toothpicks at the bar and at each table.

 

These pigs are made by hand by Lori Theriault, a potter and instructor at The Village Potters in the River Arts District. Her studio, Crazy Green Studios, is part of the larger collective of six potters that work from a renovated tannery on the banks of the French Broad river. The building, Riverview Station,  houses several other art studios, making it a prime stop for visitors to the area. Lori is originally from Vermont and has lived in Atlanta and Chicago before settling in Asheville.

Lori Theriault with Cúrate pig toothpick holders.

Lori Theriault with Cúrate pig toothpick holders.

 

Lori begins the pig process by throwing the bodies on the potter’s wheel. She creates each ball carefully, maintaining a similar size for each pig. Like all ceramic artists, Lori must consider the effects of the kiln firing, which shrinks clay objects. She makes the balls slightly larger than what the finished product will be. This process took time, as she tested and fired to make sure the pigs were the perfect size to hold toothpicks.

Lori throws the pig bodies on her pottery wheel.

Lori throws the pig bodies on her pottery wheel.

 

Once the bodies are thrown, they dry slightly and Lori trims the bottoms with her hand to make them rounded and stamps with her signature Crazy Green stamp.

Pig bodies air-drying.

Pig bodies air-drying.

The pig’s ears, nose and tail are affixed separately, and she cuts and crafts these parts from extruded coils of clay, long thin strips that she cuts to size for each part. She makes hundreds of tiny feet, noses and ears and keeps them moist so she can affix them to the pig bodies.

Pig legs and ears are attached by hand.

Pig legs and ears are attached by hand.

She or her assistant will assemble the pigs, shaping each curly tail, attaching the pieces and creating the pig’s smiling face. The Cúrate logo is the finishing touch, stamped above the tail. This detail makes the pigs a perfect souvenir, as guests are reminded of the tapas experience when they use the pig at home. They are fired twice in the kiln and colored with iron oxide.

Pigs drying before their first kiln firing.

Pigs drying before their first kiln firing.

 

Lori saves space in the kiln by firing the pigs inside mugs. Photo courtesy Lori Theriault

Lori saves space in the kiln by firing the pigs inside mugs. Photo courtesy Lori Theriault

 

Lori's pig assistant, Tamsen, dips the pigs in an iron oxide wash. Photo by Lori

Lori’s pig-making assistant, Tamsen, dips the pigs in an iron oxide wash. Photo by Lori

 

Pigs loaded in for their second kiln firing. Lori's photo of the "sauna after the mud bath."

Pigs loaded in for their second kiln firing. Lori’s photo of the “sauna after the mud bath.”

 

The finished product! Each pig is unique.

The finished product! Each pig is unique.

 

Pigs are boxed up, ready to travel to Cúrate and beyond!

Pigs are boxed up, ready to travel to Cúrate and beyond!

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