George Handy had a feeling.
After working all day in his art studio at the intersection of Lynn Cove and Webb Cove roads on Monday, Oct. 27, he decided to take a break with his chanting meditation before returning for an evening work session. The decision may well have saved his life.
A 17-year-old driver of a minivan speeding down Lynn Cove Road lost control of the vehicle and crashed through Handy’s studio about 9:30 p.m., taking out part of two walls and knocking the building off its foundation. There were no major injuries, and police cited the driver for reckless driving.
Handy, who lives across the street from his studio, heard the sound of smashing glass and crunching metal and rushed outside. He found devastation. Expensive pottery and ceramics had been pulverized. Detailed glass etchings lay scattered in shards. Vases and mugs painted in Handy’s distinctive style were broken, chipped and tossed about. Hours and hours of careful work had been destroyed in an instant.
Handy had been in the studio all day with his daughter and says he’s thankful they weren’t there at the time of the crash. “We definitely would have been in the building and could have been killed” if he hadn’t decided to take a break, he says.
A couple of days after the crash, Handy picked through the studio remains and focused on his good fortune. “I would pick up a piece and say, ‘It’s not my daughter’s hand that’s going to the landfill, it’s a piece of pottery.’”
About six weeks ago, Handy says, he purchased insurance for the contents of his studio. He says he was worried about having so many expensive works stored there, so he had the kiln removed and bought the insurance. He’s no longer doing ceramics and has begun exploring other media, such as glass wall sculptures.
Earlier this year, Handy faced the prospect of moving because his landlord was ready to do something else with the property, which the artist has leased for the last three decades. But local philanthropist Adelaide Key had recently purchased one of his new works, which he’d donated to a nonprofit benefit, and when she learned that he might be forced to move, she stepped in to buy the property with the intention of allowing him to continue, Handy says.
In another bit of good fortune, Handy says that he recently delivered three large glass pieces for local residents. And he has several projects in the works. Handy emphasizes that he still has many pieces of work for sale that made it through the crash unscathed—he refers to them as his “survivors.”
The studio has been a local landmark, a gateway to Beaverdam, for decades. It served as a general store in the 1940s and was a pottery shop before Handy moved in some 30 years ago. He plans to rebuild, and hopes to salvage as much of the building as he can.
Meantime, the phone calls keep coming with offers of help. Friends have brought food and offered to organize a “barn raising” to help him rebuild and help him clean up.
“This community has been amazing,” Handy says. “This is definitely not a time to stop, just a time to rebuild.”