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Celebrating tradition

Seagrove pottery events highlight 200-year-old practice

by Danielle Jackson

 

 

Each November for the past 28 years, pottery enthusiasts have been flocking to a rural spot about 40 miles south of Greensboro to check out the latest artistic creations. But the Seagrove Pottery Festival — held Nov. 21-22 — is relatively young compared with the area’s much older pottery roots.

 

Presented by the North Carolina Traditional Pottery Museum, the festival — recently named one of the top 20 events in the region by the Southeast Tourism Society — is a celebration of the more than 200-year-old tradition of pottery in the state. The annual event attracts between 5,000 and 8,000 visitors each year, some of whom come from across the country.

 

“For a small town, that’s a great thing,” says Phil Morgan, museum president and owner of Phil Morgan Pottery in Seagrove.

 

“Seagrove is the oldest pottery community in the country,” he adds. “There’s such a great history behind it.”

 

The town is recognized as the official birthplace of North Carolina traditional pottery. According to the museum, sometime during the 18th century an anonymous artist in town placed a ball of clay on a homemade kick wheel and turned the first piece of traditional pottery. The piece likely was fired in a kiln and glazed with a transparent coating.

 

The tradition continues today in the Seagrove community — which is comprised of parts of Chatham, Lee, Montgomery, Moore and Randolph counties — in some cases by artists representing the eighth and ninth generations of potter families in the state.

 

Drawing a crowd

During the pottery festival, more than 90 potters will showcase their creations at Seagrove Elementary School. A limited-edition pottery auction will be held at 4 p.m. Nov. 22, featuring pieces signed and dated by area potters including Rock House Pottery, this year’s featured potter.

 

“When we first started the festival in 1982, there were only 19 potteries in Seagrove,” Morgan says.

 

“It’s grown since then to include more than 100,” he adds. “They’re all invited each year, though not all of them do shows.”

 

The festival actually is held twice a year, though the April event isn’t as well-known. Morgan is hoping to change that.

 

“Hopefully the spring event also will become a new annual tradition,” he says.

 

Also don’t miss the Seagrove Christmas open house Dec. 5-6 at area potters’ shops. During the event, artists will feature their holiday items throughout the weekend, and Seagrove will offer Confederate War re-enactments in addition to pottery firing and throwing demonstrations.

 

“The open house is an opportunity for visitors to meet individual artists and experience what’s made there,” Morgan notes.

 

“It’s a exciting event where people can do some holiday shopping.”

 

According to Morgan, these events offer history, entertainment and a chance to explore.

 

 “In the hustle and bustle of today, Seagrove is an opportunity to travel through the countryside,” he says.

 

“It’s a little treasure hunt down through rural North Carolina.” 

 

Danielle Jackson is editor of Fifteen501, Wake Living and Triad Living magazines.

 


If you go

The 28th annual Seagrove Pottery Festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Nov. 21-22 at Seagrove Elementary School. Tickets cost $6 per person each day or $10 per person for both days. To learn more, call (336) 873-7887 or visit www.seagrovepotteryheritage.com.