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The Potters of Seagrove
In North Carolina and across the nation, Seagrove, NC equals pottery. People from across the nation and around the world come to Seagrove to buy various styles of pottery and muse over the delightful glazes and awesome colors. In The Potters of Seagrove, renowned potters like Sid Luck, Ben Owen, Vernon Owens and the King family show off their wares and relate how they decided to make pottery their career. In addition, scenes from Sid Luck's annual birthday celebration and the North Carolina Pottery Festival give a fun twist to an art that often invites a reverent silence as pottery and non-pottery fans alike marvel over intricately designed pieces. The Potters of Seagrove introduce other modes of pottery as well, such as face jugs, sure to bring a grin to those who look at them, and pottery sculpture, figurines made without the use of a wheel. See what a kiln looks like and see Raku pottery made before your eyes. In addition, come to the North Carolina Pottery Center and meet Terry Zug, the expert on the history of pottery in North Carolina.
Above all is the emphasis on the tradition of pottery and how new potters like David and Mary Farrell and some of Sid Luck's chemistry students become part of the Seagrove family. For the potters at Seagrove, pottery is more than simply an art or a job--it's a way of life.
Each country and region has its own styles of pottery. While there are several styles in North Carolina, the styles included here will give you more information about some of the types of pottery mentioned in The Potters of Seagrove.
Moravian pottery, originating in the Winston-Salem area, typically has a lower iron content than some of the other styles, so the products typically have a buff color. Moravian potters, of German descent, made jugs, bottles, mugs, plates, lamps, flowerpots and cooking utensils out of local clay and lined with a pale slip under a clear glaze. Pottery was typically thrown on a kick wheel, but some pieces (tobacco pipes, stove tiles and plates) were press-molded. Pieces were decorated with an abstract or geometrical pattern and colored with copper, iron or manganese oxides.
Earthenware is produced from an ocher-colored surface clay containing considerable quantities of iron and other impurities and fired to 1800F degrees. It was the predominant form of pottery in North Carolina until the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Until lead was discovered to be poisoning the colonists, potters coated their wares with a lead glaze.
Raku is usually made of an open body containing particles of already fired clay. It originated in Japan around the 16th century and its original makers (the Raku family) intended it for use in tea ceremonies. Types of Raku include Kuro (black) raku, made with a thick, brown-tinged iron or lead glaze; aka (red) raku, made with a transparent glaze on an orange body; and white raku, thickly coated with white glaze.
Raku requires a unique glaze and firing process. The glaze usually contains a higher amount of copper than many other glazes. The pieces are fired at 1800F degrees, removed, and placed in an uncovered metal can (usually a barrel or trash can) filled with paper or thin wood chips. As the heat from the piece ignites the wood or paper, the copper in the glaze reacts with the paper. Resulting from this remarkable metamorphosis is an explosion of color on the surface of the glaze. After the can is covered with a lid and the piece cools for at least an hour or until cool enough to handle, the finished ware flourishes a glaze with a detailed map of colored cracks and patterns.
Also called "face vessels," "ugly jug," or "voodoo jug," these amusing pots probably originated some time after the beginning of the twentieth century. Produced most commonly in the Catawba Valley, face jugs are usually characterized by their ears, prominent mustaches and toothy grins. When face jugs were first produced, they seemed to be an enormous effort for very little return because not many of them sold. To produce a face jug, potters first turn the piece, then let it dry for a few hours. Then the potter adds at least thirteen pieces of clay to create the face, and optional features such as a mustache, beard or horns can increase this amount. Teeth are created from jagged pieces of commercial whitewares.
The North Carolina Pottery Festival
Go to the Seagrove Potteries Web site to get the dates of this year's festival.
How to Get to Seagrove
From Raleigh or eastern North Carolina:
From Charlotte or western North Carolina:
North Carolina Pottery Center
The Center seeks to promote public awareness and appreciation of the history, heritage, and ongoing tradition of pottery making in North Carolina through educational programs, public services, collection and preservation, and research and documentation.
You learned about them on the show; now see their Web site. Learn more about this famous North Carolina art.
A virtual tour of North American potters. Resources and links to individual sites of potters throughout the United States.