It was April 18, 2009, and by 6am, Linda and I were in the car headed for Seagrove, NC, for the first day of the Celebration of Spring in Seagrove where over 40 potteries in the area would be greeting visitors who would be coming to see new works - many fresh from the potter’s kilns. Estimated arrival time was 10am where we would meet up with our friend and part time technical advisor, Will Ravenel, at the parking lot of the NC Pottery Center in Seagrove.
I felt it was only fair to get Will to join us from Greensboro, NC, since some folks think people in Greensboro would have a hard time finding their way to Seagrove to find great pottery. And, as I expected, he had no trouble and actually beat us there - just before 10am.
I’m having a little fun with the folks who thought they had to take Seagrove pottery to Greensboro for some reason. As I’ve said before, if you want to see Seagrove pottery - go to Seagrove.
At 6am, getting into the car it was cool and it stayed cool until the sun was up long enough to do its thing. By the time we arrived at the Pottery Center’s parking lot - we could tell it was going to be a wonderful spring day. And, it was.
Our first stop was at Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery. I knew we were in trouble right away. They had complimentary hand-crafted oatmeal cookies and outstanding pottery. I fell in love with Fred Johnston’s pots right off and we loved Carol Gentithes’ animal sculptures - especially the dog eating the tax return. “I’m sorry Uncle Sam - my dog ate my return.” The problem was - this was our first stop and I was already hot to buy.
We hadn’t really intended to buy on this trip. I just wanted to meet some of the blogging potters who I’ve been following since last year when I first learned that the NC Pottery Center was in financial trouble. A movement had formed to save the Center and bloggers had a big part in helping. The Center was saved and I’ve been learning a lot about potters and their processes - things I would have never known without those blogs. And, part of this event was another fundraiser for the Center. Many of these same Seagrove potters and others from around NC and the region had donated works for silent and live auctions taking place this same day entitled, Many Faces for the Center, held at the Pottery Center - our final destination for the day.
So here we were at our first stop and itching to spend money we really didn’t have to spend. We knew we were going to buy something this day - we always do. We love pottery. But we displayed strong self-control. And, besides - these potteries would not be going anywhere. Well, that was the plan anyway.
Next stop, Whynot Pottery, to meet Mark and Meredith Heywood. Meredith and I had become e-mail buddies during the Save the Pottery Center campaign. We arrived and walked into the gallery and Will sees a vase against the wall and the next thing we know he’s buying it. And, Linda discovers jewelry. All bets are off and the shopping begins. But we’re being conservative and selecting pieces with low price tags, but good pieces. It’s soon like the British on a visit to Willy Wonka’s. Well, not really, but it was amazing to see how self-control was soon out the window.
While there, Meredith gave us a tour of the studio which had burned last year. I’ve been watching the progress of the studio’s recovery through her blog. They have a great location there and we all agreed that if we lived there we wouldn’t get any work done at all.
We next found ourselves at Ben Owen Pottery where we got a look at Ben Owen III’s exceptional works. My eyes quickly scanned the gallery to see a red pot, but no glowing red pots. But they did have examples in the Museum part of the shop. The red is spectacular, but so is a lot of his work and before we left I was holding a small blue piece with small hints of red in it. Come Monday morning I might have to see if I could get some of our neighbors to pay me to rake leaves or cut grass. This was not how the day was supposed to go. Look, touch, enjoy, but don’t…
How stupid was it to make our next stop Jugtown Pottery? The pottery compound was an amazing sight as was the pottery inside and before you knew it we had acquired pieces, one by Vernon Owens and one by Pan Owens. Our heads were spinning, so we headed to the Westmoore Family Restaurant for lunch. It had been a long time since that Egg McMuffin in Manning, SC, at 7am. And I think my usually good self-control was being affected by my lack of food.
After lunch we drove to From The Ground Up Pottery to see Michael Mahan’s work, another blogger. We wanted to see the “soul pots” to get some of those good vibes of positive energies of love and kindness. It might be good for building up our self-control. As we drive up Linda and I see wind chimes - at least a kind of upside down clay bowl with a wooden ringer, both hung from ropes. They made a really nice sound.
The problem here was - I got talking with Michael Mahan and didn’t really get to look around too much and before I knew it - Linda and Will were giving me that look of - miles to go and time is running out. But I’m sure I only dodged the buying bullet - for now. After all - I’m in Seagrove once a month - very early, but nothing says I can’t wait around until potteries open.
Next stop, Dean and Martin Pottery. I know - some name right? Now, you have to think that with so many potteries in Seagrove that you are going to walk in one and not see anything that speaks to you, but it wasn’t happening at this pottery. Both Jeffrey Dean and Stephanie Martin had works that were speaking to both Linda and I. You know what happened - need I say more?
We did find one or two of those potteries where we did the quick walk through and out the door. I won’t mention them, as I’ve learned in my years in covering the arts - all art appeals to someone - all art does not have to appeal to me. I make no judgements. So in order to prevent someone from trying to figure out where we were, I’m skipping several stops and jumping to our final pottery stop. You have to watch every word you say - some people try to make the most out of nothing sometimes.
Samantha Henneke is another one of the Seagrove blogging potters. Her blog is on my daily check list. She and Bruce Gholson own Bulldog Pottery. As soon as we all enter their showroom - bingo we are going nuts again. Our eyes are just bouncing from one pot to the next and wall pieces that looked like batik. I point to a spot on one wall and tell Will - “I really like that one”. He doesn’t even see what I’m pointing at - I can’t get his full attention. Finally I break through and he sees I’m pointing to an issue of Carolina Arts on the wall.
Turns out both artists have been followers of the paper for some time - way back to 1997 when we first went into North Carolina. They used to pick it up at the Green Hill Center for NC Art in Greensboro. We don’t go to Greensboro anymore, which is too bad, but we never could find any regular support for the paper there and that kind of matches up with things - I mean if the people there can’t figure out that you go to Seagrove for Seagrove pottery - how could they ever figure out that in order to keep us in Greensboro - they would have to support us.
Anyway - we all got some very nice pottery at Bulldog Pottery, and when we went to put the bags in our car’s trunk - the trunk was full of bags. What had happened to our plan - where was the self-control?
Next stop - back to the NC Pottery Center for the auctions. It was 3pm and Linda and I were beginning to feel our day. As we walked in we were just in time for the end of the first silent auction - but nothing was silent here. The place was abuzz with chatter and excitement. Some folks were just about to become the winning bidders of donated pottery and round two was about to begin. We moved through the crowd as best we could to see what was being offered. The theme was, Many Faces for the Center, and it was interesting to see how the various artists had taken on that theme.
Will asked if I was going to be bidding. I reminded him of the trunk of the car and gave him one of those looks - like - haven’t I gotten in enough trouble already? Besides I’m more the kind of guy who likes the “Buy Now” option on eBay. I’ve learned what can sometimes happen in the heat of an auction - even silent auctions. I like the satisfaction of walking up to something and saying - you are mine now. During an auction if I like something and someone else outbids my wallet, which isn’t hard to do - I’ll just feel bad.
Wait a minute, I have to adjust that statement - it sounds a little too manly. What I should have said is - I like to fall for something and then ask Linda - may I have it?
Before long, the crowd is beginning to wear on us and we decide since we are not making bids - perhaps our day has come to an end. We say our good-byes, after we sort out the purchases in our car’s trunk and part to return home in different directions. Will pointed out that since Greensboro is less than an hour away (Did you hear that folks in Greensboro - you’re less than an hour away from Seagrove.) that he will have finished a nap before we get home. Thanks again for that thought, Will.
By 8pm we had arrived home - just another 14 hour adventure in the Carolina Arts history books. Although it was a long day - we had a great time.
Then began the unwrapping of the purchases made earlier that day - the rediscovery of what we had fallen for. In the bag from Bulldog Pottery we found a notice for a show, Cousins in Clay, scheduled for June 6 & 7, 2009, at Bulldog which would be featuring works by Bruce Gholson, Samantha Henneke, and Michael Kline - another blogging potter from Bakersville, NC, whom I’ve also been following through his blog. Here’s a case where Bakersville comes to Seagrove. You can find many of these blogs I mentioned in our links on the side of this page.
Some Points To Remember
First off, going to Seagrove is like going to an art walk in downtown Charleston, SC. There is no way you are going to see it all in one visit. Both places are steeped in history and tradition, but you will always discover something new every time you visit. So for those potteries who might feel left out - no worries mates - we’ll be back. Linda and I have been collecting pottery for almost 30 years - we’re not finished yet.
Secondly, on this day our purchases ranged from $5 to a high of $45. My want list ran as high as $450 and up, but they will have to wait for better days. So even in tough economic times - you can go and fill your eyes with wonder and not drain the family coffers - that is if you have better self-control than some. Will is coming our way in a few weeks and he was already planning a return trip to Seagrove with Mother’s Day in mind. There are going to be some lucky mothers on that day.
Thirdly, for the AARP generation, which you enter at age 50 even if you’re not a member - a visit to Seagrove’s potteries was easy to take. You can drive right up to most of the pottery shops, we took advantage of three - count them, three good rest rooms - one at the Pottery Center, several at the Westmoore Family Restaurant, and there is a rest area on Hwy. 705 - the pottery highway. That’s important. Also stop at the Pottery Center first - they have good maps on how to find the potteries.
Fourthly, even if all you do is look, Seagrove’s rolling hills and country roads are a wonderful backdrop to the potteries, which are interesting in themselves. And although Seagrove when looked at on a map seems like it’s in the middle of nowhere, it is centrally located near many of North Carolina’s populated areas - even Greensboro, and not that far from many places in South Carolina. If Linda hadn’t been on call for her 911 job on Sunday, we probably would have stayed with Will in Greensboro and gone back to more potteries on Sunday. They also have hotels in the area for those without friends in the area.
And my fifth point is, we have been involved with the Seagrove area and its potters since last July, but we know there are great potters located all over the Carolinas. In fact, our last pottery purchase was made almost a year and a half ago up in Asheville, NC, during one of the Southern Highland Craft Guild’s Fairs. We purchased a piece of pottery from Courtney Erin Martin from Bakersville, NC. Before that we purchased works at one of the annual Piccolo Spoleto Outdoor Crafts Fair in Charleston, SC - probably from a Carolina potter. Our collection is focused on works by Carolina artists. And, before that we’ve gotten works at Southern Pottery Workcenter & Gallery in Columbia, SC. Peter Lenzo does some outstanding work and also carries great works from other Carolina potters. In other words - we get around and we shop around.
But, if it seems like we have been focused on Seagrove - we have. They need the attention. They deserve the attention - at least the good kind. And, I hope you (the readers) are giving it to them through this blog.
The next big event in Seagrove will be the 2nd annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters, taking place on Nov. 20-22, 2009. Actually two pottery festivals will be taking place that weekend in Seagrove. I recommend you go see both, but you don’t have to wait for a big event to go visit potteries in Seagrove. In fact, I bet they would like it if you just went there any old time. Buy all the pottery you want - they’ll make more.