North Carolina's Pottery Capital is Seagrove - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

One Day Getaway takes viewers to Pottery Capital of North Carolina

Face Jugs and other homemade pottery items are on display at North Carolina Pottery Center. (Source: WECT) Face Jugs and other homemade pottery items are on display at North Carolina Pottery Center. (Source: WECT)

An abundance of red clay has led a community in the central part of the state to be called the Pottery Capital of North Carolina. With over 100 potters living in that area, it has become a destination for many looking for the traditional as well as unusual pieces of handmade pottery to use and decorate their homes.

North Carolina Highway 705 is known as the Pottery Highway, thanks to the numerous potters who live in and around Seagrove, North Carolina.  That is also the site of the North Carolina Pottery Center. 

Native Americans were the area's early potters, and a variety of artifacts of their lives have been uncovered.

But it was not until the 1920s that more plastic and glass products were being made to use in people's homes and kitchens, meaning there was no longer the same critical need as earlier for pottery items like plates and glasses.   

"So you began to see a transition from the production of utensils stoneware and a bit more in the development of art pottery in the early nineteen hundreds," said Lindsey Lambert, Executive Director of the North Carolina Pottery Center. 

Many of the early potters relied on the natural red clay of the area in their creations. Now there are companies that produce the clay many of the potters choose. 

"Just in recent years, we have seen a resurgence in the interest in local clays as local clay is being mined commercially, so there is really great that a lot of the potters are now using local clay again," Lambert explained.

However, the process of making a pottery item remains the same for potters of today, hands-on, with lots of time, patience and experience needed. 

While the type of clay has changed, so have the pottery items the artists are now making. Veteran potter Mark Hewitt says the market has expanded to not only traditional items like plates, cups and other assorted household items, into more decorative works of art.  

"These days, there are potters from all over the place who have moved to North Carolina who are adding fresh ideas to the really wonderful traditions that have been here from the late 18th century" said Mark Hewitt, a potter himself in the Pittsboro area, and President of the North Carolina Pottery Center.  "And the reason for their survival of tradition is that potters are more adaptive and if you keep making the same thing over and over, and people get tired of it, so you have to make something new, and the potters have really shifted their styles over the course of the last one hundred years, even less."

"Currently here at the North Carolina Pottery Center, our temporary exhibition is called Many Faces: North Carolina's Face Jugs Tradition," said Lambert. "It explores the history of North Carolina Face Jugs which is really interesting. North Carolina's Face Jugs took off as a tradition, if you will, in the early to mid 1970's, with the celebration of the country's anniversary." 

Thousands of people travel to the Seagrove and surrounding areas each year to buy pottery items. 

But a stop by the North Carolina Pottery Center could help if you are not familiar with the various artists whose homes and studios are found on some of the back roads.

Maps are available at the Pottery Center to many of the potter's workshops, along with descriptions of the type of art each creates.  

Pottery in North Carolina is just another part of the state's rich history and certainly one of North Carolina's most unique cultural resources.

The Face Jug exhibition at the North Carolina Pottery Center will be on display until October 25.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly