[caption id="attachment_175186" align="alignright" width="300"] Ben Owen III[/caption] At the North Carolina Pottery Center in Randolph County, legacy potter Ben Owen III walks through centuries of pottery history. First, he passes
At the North Carolina Pottery Center in Randolph County, legacy potter Ben Owen III walks through centuries of pottery history. First, he passes the earth-toned jugs and vessels made by Native Americans and German settlers, then stoneware — much of which appears to be coated in sand, the result of the salt glaze that’s indicative of early Piedmont work. “The first families made pots out of necessity and to barter,” Owen explains as he walks past ceramic grave markers. He turns a corner, and a rainbow of creations welcomes him to the 20th-century era of art pottery. He glances at a small blue bowl, a circa-1930s piece by his grandfather Benjamin Wade Owen Sr. The elder Owen spent 36 years working at Jugtown Pottery, a studio that Jacques and Juliana Busbee started in 1917. The couple’s expert marketing helped spread the word about Seagrove pottery beyond town — and state — borders.
Fifteen minutes down NC Highway 705, dubbed the Pottery Highway, Kate Waltman stares into 1,000-degree flames. The co-owner of The Triangle Studio, a pottery gallery and workshop in a renovated gas station, adds wood to the 30-foot-long kiln that sits like a beached whale on fellow potter David Stuempfle’s property. Waltman is one of 10 potters, including newcomers and veteran Seagrove artists, whose work is in this firing. Waltman moved to town 13 years ago, after learning about Seagrove while working at a pottery studio in New Jersey. When she arrived, she “knew the pots but not the people.” She now works closely with many of the artists behind the pots that she once studied, including Owen, with whom she is on a firing team.
After a stroll through the pottery center, Owen heads back to his studio, Ben Owen Pottery — opened by his grandfather in 1959 — and passes Waltman’s three-foot-tall flower-adorned pot. Owen is removing a set of finished pieces from the kiln today. Wherever they end up, they’ll carry the centuries-old Seagrove pottery legacy.
The General Wine and Brew
What does the co-owner and bartender of The General, Seagrove’s first and only wine and beer bar, do in his free time? You can find David Fernandez in his studio, turning clay into colorful wine coolers for the bar’s 131-bottle menu, or mugs marked with The General’s logo. Oh, and he’s also mayor of the population-235 town. He turned the building beside his circa-1910s home, originally the town’s first general store, into a gathering place. Locals like Crystal King, an eighth-generation potter, often meet fellow artists for a glass of wine here, or outside in the “grove,” where there are two pots made by Fernandez’s wife, Alexa Modderno.
Celebration of Seagrove Potters — November 18-19
An array of mugs, pots, face jugs, plates, and pottery of all shapes, sizes, and colors sits in booths beneath a painted black sign that reads “Luck’s, Inc.” About 20 Seagrove potters fill an old production room in the town’s newly renovated historic Luck’s Cannery for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters. Attendees can meet potters, see turning demonstrations, and tour 30 open studios during this two-day event.
For more information about the Celebration of Seagrove Potters, visit discoverseagrove.com.print it