The Randolph County town of Seagrove (www.heartofnorthcarolina.com) has a population of less than 300 – yet the community is home to more than 100 potters, pottery shops and galleries.
In colonial times, settlers noticed how the local clay was perfect for glazed earthenware – jugs, plates, pots, dishes and more. Demand for Seagrove items rose and fell over the years, but became firmly established in the last five decades when the number of quality potters working in traditional and modern styles reached its critical mass. In the 1980s, promotion of the area as the “Handmade Pottery Pottery Capital of the United States” began in earnest.
It now draws craft-lovers from across the country. The area is so famous that its stretch of N.C. 705 is marked as Pottery Highway.
Visit the North Carolina Pottery Center ($2; www.ncpotterycenter.org), where a permanent exhibit displays more than 800 pieces. The “Foodwares: Pottery for Storage and Preparation of Food” exhibit continues through Oct. 26. You can call ahead and schedule a pottery demonstration.
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A mile south of Seagrove, the state visitor center on I-73/74 (northbound) features a comprehensive wall of area pottery and has maps and guides to locating active studios.
Many potters in the area welcome visitors. For a list of more than 60 operations (and links to their websites), go to http://bit.ly/1gypeuF.
The run-up to the holidays is selling season for area artisans. The Seagrove Area Potters Association throws a Celebration of Seagrove Potters Nov. 22-24 (www.discoverseagrove.com), and the Seagrove Pottery Festival will be staged Nov. 23-24 (on Facebook, search for “Museum of NC Traditional Pottery”). At each, you’ll find a market, demonstrations, speakers and hands-on activities for the kids.
Kiln openings are studio events where potters sell products fresh from the firing. Bulldog Pottery, for example, is staging one Dec. 14. (www.bulldogpottery.com).