I was pretty excited when I realized our drive to the beach would take us past Seagrove. I had always wanted to visit, but it was one of those things that just never worked out. Even this time we only had a few hours, but we made it count. Our first stop was the North Carolina Pottery Center and Museum. This is a lovely spot to get your bearings and should be anybody's first stop in Seagrove (unless you're staying at one of the cute B&B's).
There were some great photos and displays of life in Seagrove from waaaay back, well, way back in time for the US, baby country that it is! Nothing American seems old after living in Germany, ha ha! Native Americans who lived in this area had long since been utilizing the local clay supplies before European settlers arrived in the late 1700's and began scrapping out an existence as farmer-potters. By the mid-1800's, Seagrove was established as a pottery center.
At this point I could get all nerdy explaining the types of pottery and glazes used (I loved this part of my archaeology studies in the Middle East back in college), but I'll spare you and send you over here for more details. Suffice to say, people in Seagrove were practically focused, but were also always dreaming up new things. Satisfied with the status quo? oh no!
A line from the town's site reads, "By the late 1920s, Seagrove area pottery was well known from the galleries of New York to the garden shops of Florida." It was really neat to see the progression of styles over time. One particularly interesting area was focused on face jugs (sometimes called 'ugly jugs'). I'd seen these often growing up in NC, but never really knew the story behind them. The history of face jugs has to do with African witchcraft, Caribbean voodoo, slaves with no grave markers, and on to moonshine. Intrigued? You can read more details about face jugs here. Have you ever seen a face jug?
In the middle of the museum was the current exhibit, Buncombe County Historical and Contemporary Pottery. This was really fascinating for me! I'm pretty much in love with the lines from Leah Leitson's sugar and creamer. She only works in porcelain and is on faculty at Warren-Wilson in Asheville, NC. My brother really liked the shiny raku vessel by Steven Forbes-deSoule. Akira Satake's teapot is also a showstopper, isn't it? By the way, the strawberry jug, above, is from Julie and Tyrone Larson. Isn't it sweet?
Fran Welch made a truly lovely piece with her "Sisters" plate, below. I really like the modern collage feel of it. It seems very tactile, despite the intricate artwork. Heather Tinnaro made a lovely series of delicate vessels with the leaves and birds, don't you think? I can imagine one of Alice in Wonderland's elixirs in one of these bottles. Of course, the 'Desk Set' by Leah Leitson, who made the sugar and creamer set above, is really cool. How fun would it be to have them holding your pens and pencils?
So once you walk through the museum and get all excited about the history, the heritage, and all the creating that goes on in Seagrove, you start to panic a little and wonder how you're going to absorb all the local studios, especially if you only had a few hours like me! Not to worry, the museum has a huge open shelving area filled with samples from local potters. They also have a map marking the locations of the different studios so you can plan accordingly.
We didn't make it to Thomas Pottery, but isn't that sugar bowl darling? We did make it out to His Hands Pottery and were thrilled to see an entire Noah's Ark in person. They had all the animals in pairs across a table. It was really amazing how intricate the entire set was! Phil Morgan featured the tall, yellow chrystaline vase, below. I was l.o.v.i.n.g. the yellow glaze, isn't it incredible?! We did make it to his studio and were amazed to see even larger vases in person! I'll talk more about what chyrstaline is later in the series. Finally, a sample of Humble Mill's pottery is at the bottom right. I really loved her style of design, and will be talking more about her studio in the next post!
Stay tuned for more in the Seagrove series: visits to two pottery studios and a chance to meet a potter in a Living Colors post!