Little did Tonda know that when she took a ceramics course in 1973 at Atlantic Christian College it would spark a life-long passion for clay for both herself and husband, Joe. Soon after graduation in 1974, she signed up for the newly started pottery class at Wilson Technical Institute in Wilson, NC. After that first summer class, Joe decided he wanted to learn to make pots for their extensive cacti collection. The rest is history! Their first home studio became the spare bathroom and bedroom with Joe throwing pots sitting on the commode. Running out of space, they enclosed their carport and then built their first brick gas kiln in a backyard building with the help of friend, Billy Dixon. A few years later after building a new house and carefully dismantling the kiln brick by brick, they moved into a new 400 sq. ft. studio behind their house and built the kiln a second time. During many years of this period, they worked at home and did much of their firing with Dan Finch at Finch’s Pottery in Bailey, NC. Dan was also in those early classes at WTI which helped to create a lasting and special friendship. With Tonda working full-time as an elementary art teacher in Wilson County and Joe full-time in Marketing at BB&T’s home office in Wilson, the first 30 years of their work in clay was done on a part-time basis in between keeping up with their two children, Casey and Cody.
After Joe retired in 2004 and Tonda a year later, the couple relocated to Little River, SC and opened a new studio outside of Calabash, NC. Jeffcoat Pottery became a working/teaching facility with Tonda and Joe teaching two weekly classes of adult pottery for 5 years. As demand increased for their own work, they stopped the teaching classes around 2011. Also during this time, both Casey and Cody joined them at their studio, with Casey becoming a part of Jeffcoat Pottery and Cody creating Cody Jeffcoat Pottery. Casey still works with her parents and Cody has since gone back to financial planning in Cary, NC but has a studio in his house. Tonda and Joe are very pleased and proud that both their children have become potters in their adult lives.
The Jeffcoats continue to work full-time even though they’re supposed to be retired. Tonda says, “We’re not retired, we’re RE-tired!” They believe that when you have a passion for something, such as clay, your work is your fulfillment. Joe says, “It get me up in the morning.” Their work is sold at shows, shops, and galleries in North and South Carolina and from their studio. They get great satisfaction from creating pieces that will be enjoyed by their customers for years to come.