Archive for November, 2008

Celebration of Seagrove Potters Exceeds All Expectations

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

I was sent this update on the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival.

by Jennie Lorette Keatts

After only five and half months of planning and execution, the Celebration of Seagrove Potters, in Seagrove, NC, went off without a hitch, exceeding attendance estimates and putting big smiles on the faces of the participating artists. Over 400 attended the opening night Gala and over 5000 attended the potters market Saturday and Sunday. The Steering Committee kicked into gear in early June, drawing in community support from potters, clay workers and community members, to create a very successful event.

Opening on Friday night (Nov. 21, 2008) with the Gala Preview Party, attendance in the historic Luck’s Cannery exceeded 400 people. Dr. David Jones, Director of the NC Zoo and, his wife, Janet were in attendance. Dr. Jones stated, “I think the thing that really impressed me, apart from the numbers attending and the huge effort that had obviously gone into organizing it, was to see all those potters in one place. The sheer kaleidoscope of colors, shapes, sizes and designs was just mind blowing. I’m used to seeing the work of one or two artists together in a single setting but to see fifty potters (and a (pottery) jeweler) under one roof was extraordinary.” And he was not alone in those comments!

Booths were open for sales, the jazz band entertained, White Rabbit catering provided a delectable buffet and guests enjoyed sodas, wine and beer. Coordinated by volunteer Nan Revel of Asheboro, the event was festive and enjoyable. At 8:00 PM the collaborative auction began with the Jugtown collaborative piece bringing in the top amount at over $1000. Several other pieces, such as the Ben Owen/Michael Mahan piece signed by participating artists and a teapot by Pam Owens and Jennie Lorette Keatts also brought very high amounts. Bidding was competitive and friendly, sales at the booths were good. Paul Ray of Ray Pottery stated “Sheila and I have been doing around 20 shows per year for the last 7 years. Many of them have a gala or preview night. The Celebration Of Seagrove Potters gala was, by far, the classiest we’ve seen. The food, band, and especially the pots were all superior! The gala was a good indicator of the rest of the weekend, great! It gave us a great sense of pride in our community to see how we were able to come together and work for a common cause.” A sentiment held by many!

Saturday morning (Nov. 22, 2008) started with a line at the door and it just kept going. Over 3600 people visited the Celebration on Saturday alone, making the exhibiting artists quite happy. Throughout the day potters demonstrated, the Kids Area was open for learning and working with clay, as well as Kids Priced pots in the Kids Only booth, which raised $1000 over the weekend and will be donated to the Westmoore and Seagrove Elementary schools. Dr. Terry Zug and Pam Owens of Jugtown gave talks related to the history of Seagrove. And sales were strong through out the show. Sid Luck, an exhibitor, demonstrator and educational talk leader, stated, “I am overjoyed with the success of the Celebration Of Seagrove Potters. It exceeded my expectation.” This thought was echoed throughout the show by exhibitors and customers alike. Sid’s specially designed beanpot with the Luck’s pinto bean logo, inscribed on the bottom a tribute to Ivey B. Luck, Alfred Spencer and H. Clay Presnell, founders of the historic Luck’s cannery, brought $2100 at the Saturday auction! Sunday continued in the same line, with education, demonstrations and sales.

Bonnie Burns of Great White Oak Gallery headed up the volunteer committee. “The event could not have gone on without them. It was heartwarming to see how many people volunteered their time and efforts to ensure that the Celebration was seamless.” Seagrove is a close knit and caring community, as evidenced by the volunteers and artists alike. In the midst of such success, unfortunately one of the family of Seagrove artists suffered a tragedy. Saturday night, Chris and Lisa Luther lost their shop and studio to fire. Fortunately, another potter passing by saw the fire and notified authorities before the fire could spread to their home. The potters and artists pulled together to support one of their own, from covering their booth, to donating pots and items to the Seagrove Potters Relief Fund booth, to giving hugs and support when needed.

This festival was about unity, sharing and working together for the benefit of each other. That is what the Seagrove community is really about, for the most part. A group of artist concerned about the welfare and continued well being of their fellow artists and potters, about maintaining the integrity and authenticity of their work, and this event was a catalyst to really develop it further and keep that going. If that were the only result, this would be a success, but given the overall numbers and comments from customers, exhibitors and volunteers, the Celebration of Seagrove Potters truly shone brightly and showcased the pottery shops of the area in a new light. We could not have asked for a better show!

For further information e-mail Jennie Lorette Keatts at ( or Susan Greene at (

First Celebration of Seagrove Potters Festival a Success

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I did not get to attend this first time event in Seagrove, NC, although I wanted to. I did the next best thing, I kept in touch by reading the blogs of the various blogging potters who were getting ready for this event – and reports of how things were going – hours after they happened.

Over the last four or five months I have been watching the events unfold during this rebirth of unity between Seagrove area potters. Outsiders were trying to divide this small community of artisans in a power play for control – threatening the existence of the NC Pottery Center and many of their financial futures.

The majority of the Seagrove potters banded together to help save the NC Pottery Center from closing its doors (see other blog entries) and forged a new path to the future in creating the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival – which took place last weekend.

The opening Gala was a sellout, the festival attracted 5,000 happy shoppers, but like all communities – where there is celebration – tragedy is not far behind.

Lisa and Chris Luther of Chris Luther Pottery were one of the 60 participating potteries in the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival. Chris Luther is a fourth generation potter of the Chriscoe pottery family of Seagrove, NC. In some of the blogs there are pictures of Chris at the festival with a big smile on his face standing in or near his booth – filled with potential customers. There were a lot of smiles on potters’ faces in those pictures.

Putting on this first year festival was a lot of work and took a lot of time in preparation, so many of those smiles were smiles of relief with a hint of strain mixed in. On Saturday night, after the second day of the festival, Chris and his wife were at a fellow potter’s home helping celebrate a 50th birthday when the phone rang and another potter on their way to the party spotted flames coming from their pottery studio. Luckily other potters in the area helped make sure those flames didn’t reach the Luthers’ home, but the studio could not be saved.

This was the second fire to burn down a potter’s studio since I started covering the plight of the NC Pottery Center. Early on the studio of Whynot Pottery had burned down and following the story of their recovery has been intertwined with the story of the Pottery Center’s recovery. So here in the middle of this small community of potters celebration – tragedy strikes again.

I don’t know Chris and Lisa Luther – I’ve never met them and their names never came up while following these recent events, but I feel like I know them – they were part of all that’s been going on in Seagrove.

Linda and I also experienced a loss to fire. Before we were in the business of doing this arts newspaper we ran a custom photo processing business for almost 16 years – back in the days when custom processing meant doing it by hand – before digital photography. When we stopped that business to concentrate on the arts newspaper full time I always felt I had the greatest hobby photography lab in existence – just a short walk away from our house to our backyard garage. It was the best kind of darkroom – the kind you didn’t have to take down every time you finished to recover a part of your home – once I closed the door I could be printing photos in a matter of minutes. The equipment was the best you could have – some they just didn’t make anymore. I looked forward to spending many an hour back there – not printing someone else’s photos, but mine.

Because our son was very young then we had also stored our growing pottery collection back there and most of our photo collection – negatives and all – in safe keeping from eager sticky hands.

One night we were woken up by someone driving by to tell us our garage was on fire. The local volunteer fire department was there quickly, but what the flames didn’t destroy their water hoses finished off.

To this day I can’t go through some things pulled from the destruction – which might be salvaged without getting sick to my stomach. It’s not even easy writing about it. I lost more than 20 years of photography in that fire. We lost a lot in that fire – most couldn’t be replaced by insurance and insurance isn’t meant to replace memories.

So when I read about the success of the potters in Seagrove and then started reading about the Luther’s tradegy – it hit home. You wonder why life is like that. Why in the middle of celebration does tradegy have to come knocking, in our case, or the phone rings in their case?

Well, I’m sure the Luthers will be looked after – they may live in a small community but that community has a big heart and strong will – we’ve seen that in the last months. And, fire is part of a potter’s life – it gives, but it can take too. Like I’ve said before here – don’t mess with potters.

If you want to lend a helping hand – I’m not sure at this point what you can do, but when we find out we’ll let you know. I did read about a Potters Relief Fund booth which was at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival, but didn’t see anything about it on the festival’s website.

The Chris Luther Pottery website is (, The pottery address is: Chris Luther Pottery, 4823 Busbee Road, Seagrove, NC 27341. More details later.

Update: We now have the address for the Potters Relief Fund in Seagrove, checks should be marked for Chris Luther. The address to send checks is: The Potters Relief Fund, c/o Caldwell-Hohl Art Works, 155 Cabin Trail, Seagrove, NC 27341, or call @ 336-879-9090. Checks should be made out to the Potters Relief Fund.

SC Arts Commission Budget Cuts – Have You Heard?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

On Oct. 14, 2008, I posted comments wondering how the SC Arts Commission would make cuts to its budget as the State of SC was facing an almost half a billion dollar shortfall. At that time people were thinking 10% cuts were in line. In my comments, I doubted that the Commission would take much of the brunt of the cuts on themselves and made suggestions where some cuts could be made. But, I expected the real cuts to come in services to the arts and the public.

By Oct. 22, 2008, Jeffrey Day in The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, our capital city, offered an article where he used the 10% figure and offered quotes from a commission staff member that this figure might just represent the start of cuts. There wasn’t much offered in the article about any cuts the Arts Commission would make on itself.

Day often runs blocking plays for the Arts Commission so I expected as much from his article. Let’s see if he has a follow-up story on the real cuts.

Well, now I’ve heard from a source that those individuals and groups who received grants from the Arts Commission had their funds cut by 25% – 14.2% is an immediate cut and the other half will be held by the Commission – in case of further cuts down the road. If you don’t know – grantees never get all the money up front when they receive funding from the Arts Commission – so the Arts Commission always has control of the money.

This is kind of like a temporary tax issued to raise funds for a project and once the project is finished the tax is dropped, but the tax never seems to get dropped. The house never loses – they’re holding all the cards.

This same source said that the Commission for its part would be cutting its administrative budget 14.2% through a number of measures, including 4-day furloughs by all of their employees, reduction in leased vehicles, and staff reduction through attrition. They’re also going to suspend the Verner Awards for this year – one of my recommendations. More about that later.

I don’t like making comments on third party info – although I appreciate the heads up. I like to comment on public record – directly offered or in newspaper reports. So I had to wait to see if this info would become public – which isn’t always the case when it comes to the SC Arts Commission. Finally the information about the cuts was posted on the Arts Commission’s website. You can read the full details here (

So let’s take a look at the cuts the Commission is making to itself.

Do you feel their pain? Four days off work without pay, but you still have your job and all the benefits that come with it. Let’s see that’s less than one week out of 52. That’s a 2% cut in salary – what a sacrifice. The length of the furloughs is not mentioned in the Arts Commission’s press release – probably for the calculation I just made, but I’ll go with my source on this one.

The Commission will reduce its leased vehicles from three to one. This means the staff will be sitting in Columbia most of the time – a plus for Columbia’s art community – not so good for the rest of the art community in SC. Of course they could drive their own cars to meet with people in the hinterlands, but we’ll see about that one. They say they are reducing most travel plans and will hold all commission meetings in Columbia. Oh no – no Commission board meeting in Charleston during the Spoleto Festival. Now there’s some real pain. So, the results here are further costs for others who have to deal with the Commission by traveling to Columbia.

They will outright cancel planned publications, other printing and mailings – meaning even less communications with the art community and public. This has to be seen as a benefit of the call for budget cuts by the Arts Commission, but didn’t their leader just win a national award from her peers for her communicating skills? Timing is everything.

And, if someone leaves their job – they won’t rehire to fill the position, but if no one leaves, they don’t do anything. Some temporary staff positions will be reduced. Who knows who they are – most people don’t know who all works for the Arts Commission to begin with. What do they all do? Remember, SC has one of the largest arts agency staffs in the region and nation.

The Commission will suspend State Art Collection purchases. That’s a big cut – I haven’t heard of any additions to the collection in years. And no Verner Awards this year! Another big sacrifice for the Commission board members.

Wait a minute – isn’t the funding for the Art Collection and the Verner Awards functions of the SC Arts Foundation – a totally separate group from the Arts Commission? What would cuts to the State agency have to do with those programs? Or are they really one in the same? What gives here? Did they fall for my little trap – trying to make people mad at me for recommending this cut, and by making it so – expose that there is no difference between the two. Why would they have to make this cut? Is the cost of the award statues and a press release posted on their website that much? Or is this a way to make the artists feel the Arts Commission’s pain. Announce the awards and give them the statue – without your party. Is the award just a product of the party?

In other words – the Arts Commission won’t be making much of a sacrifice itself, while all the people they serve will take a 25% cut – 14.2 right away and more to come if needed. I’m betting it will be needed to protect the Arts Commission from further sacrifices.

What they are doing is settling into their offices in Columbia and waiting for retirement – services be dammed.

Save the Cheerleader – Save the Planet – Saving the NC Pottery Center

Monday, November 17th, 2008

This was an interesting catch phrase to promote one of the seasons of the NBC TV show – Heroes. I’ve never watched that program, but I liked the phrase. I’ve used it before in commentary as it shows how interconnected we all are – one person to the next, one person to the environment, one person to the economy, etc.

Like – save your environment – save the planet; save a hungry child – save the next world leader; and save one species – save mankind. Of course some people have been saying – save the banks – save the economy or save US automakers – save millions of jobs. It just goes to show that not all combinations make sense. With some things it’s save them once – save them again and again and once more for good measure.

I’m offering the phrase – save the NC Potter Center – save Seagrove potters too.

Not too long ago we told you how the financially strapped NC Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, battled to raise $100,000 to keep its doors open. The Center with the help of potters around the Carolinas and pottery lovers raised almost $125,000 in three months during a downturned economy. This was hopefully a temporary situation as it is hoped that the State of NC will eventually take the NC Potter Center under its financial wing – much like it did the troubled Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, NC, last year. But, we have all seen recently what a difference a few months can make.

A lot of that help came from local Seagrove area potters – donating pots for auctions, raffles, and for benefit sales – as well as blogging to get the word out and keeping people informed about the fundraising efforts. A lot of other people helped too.

But, now these same potters are preparing for their biggest financial event of the year – for themselves – the first annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters, taking place Nov. 21 – 23, 2008, at the historic Luck’s Beans cannery in Seagrove. The event starts off on Friday night with an opening Gala which will offer attendees a first chance at special auction items and first chance to purchase from participating potters – over 60 in all. Check out the website for complete details, there will be a lot of stuff going on. There is also a link on that site for accommodations in the area.

This will be a special weekend in Seagrove offering the beginning pottery collector a great introduction and the seasoned collector a chance to update their collections with the newest pots – straight from area kilns – still warm. Believe me, from what I have read about some of the preparations for this important weekend – some pots might be downright hot.

It will also be a great time to visit the recently saved Pottery Center. Admission is free this weekend, but you can still make a donation. And, from what I’ve heard – there may even be another pottery festival going on at the same time in Seagrove.

The important thing is that this holiday shopping season is going to be a critical time for all artists. It will determine how well the holidays and their future year will be. Support them if you can and end up with some beautiful art created by a Carolina artist.

Presidential Jetlag

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

It’s been less than two weeks since election day, but wow has time flew by. The election which was supposed to go into the wee hours of Wednesday morning was over by 9pm when New Hampshire went blue and then shortly after – Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Virginia went blue – minutes before polls closed on the west coast. Bamm, the election was over – we have a new President-Elect.

That weekend we were in the Charlotte, NC area on a little business/pleasure trip – meeting with our tech consultants and attending the 15th Annual Carolina Renaissance Festival. Carolina Arts is one of the festival’s media sponsors. It was hard to spot an ailing economy there and I later learned that 24,000 attended the festival that weekend.

We then had a funeral to attend and before we knew it our deadline was on top of us for the December 08 issue.

Now that the paper is at the printer, I finally have time to catch up on my blogging duties – which are important these days. Since starting Carolina Arts Unleashed we have increased hits to our website by an extra 100,000 – going over 300,000 per month – in fact 325,932 hits in October. That’s good for everyone associated with our website. The search engines love us.

Our blog represents a new adventure in promoting the visual arts in the Carolinas – with a few other thoughts thrown in the mix. It’s a move toward the future – just part of our growth into other media venues to promote the visual arts. It’s part of our – Yes We Can Too – policy.

While our county moves in a new direction – we will too. It’s going to be hard going, but we’re moving forward. It may seem like we’re marching in place at times, and even in reverse sometimes, but our direction is forward.

We hope you’ll come along with us.

What’s Wrong With This Presidential Election

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

That’s not a question, but there are plenty of answers if it was.

During the day I’m working on my computer – a lot. Most of that time I’m listening to a random selection from my iTunes playlist, listening to news/talk shows on public radio, or watching cable news – CNN and MSNBC – all the elite news media.

When it comes to the cable news – I’m amazed at who is paying for the coverage of this presidential campaign – energy companies, mortgage lenders, and tax avoidance firms.

I hear a lot about clean coal – that doesn’t exist yet. There are no power plants in America burning clean coal to create energy. They had plans of building a clean coal burning power plant, but the estimated costs were running so high that they scrapped the plans to build the test model. And, that said – it doesn’t matter how much coal we still have in the ground – we need cleaner alternative fuel sources – like wind and solar power. But the energy companies have lots of money to buy commercials to have a woman dressed in all black ( I can only figure she wears black due to all the coal dust in the air) walk around telling us lies about clean coal – the solution. Dig baby dig!

There is also a lot of money being spent on commercials by mortgage companies – some, the same companies who got us into this economic mess to begin with. When the commercials are not on, the talking heads on the news are telling us there is no money for home loans – even if someone wanted to buy a home now that would be worth less – much less – the day after they purchased it – with what kind of loan? Probably some new kind of loan – designed to help homeowners. Right! And, why not buy a home you can’t afford now, from a company that is going broke – when Uncle Sam will pick up the tab? Are these companies trying to run up their debt to get a bigger piece of the bailout?

And, while I’m listening to the lies about taxes – who’s going to pay more and who’s going to get a rebate from Warren Buffet and Bill Gates during the great redistribution of wealth – I see these commercials about people who had huge delinquent tax bills, but they hired some ex-IRS employees and now they don’t have to pay anything. “We owed $100,000 in back taxes, but we hired (fill in the blank tax firm) and now we only need to pay $25″. And, they say this with a smile on their face. The whole commercial is a parade of couples who owe back taxes and end up paying nothing but pennies on the dollar – just because they hired these tax pros (or cons). I wonder what you have to pay these companies to save you that much money? And, how many lunches and beers do these guys have to buy for their old friends at the IRS to get such favorable rulings?

Why would people who make over $250,000 ever worry about being taxed, when all they have to do is not pay their taxes and then hire these wizards of tax loopholes.

But then there are a lot of people who seem to think they are making over $250,000 a year (even when they are not) and are going to have their wealth taken away and given to homeless people paying no taxes. Dang, those lucky homeless people! But then again isn’t that what our current President and Treasury Secretary are doing – taking our tax dollars – current and future – and giving it to people who bought houses they couldn’t afford, predator lenders, stock brokers, financial speculators, and hedge fund managers who blew it all on the product featured in my favorite commercial.

This one tops them all. A man is driving in this big pig of a car – almost the size of a tank. It’s got everything in it and can carry a dozen people – yet he’s the only one in the car and he’s wondering why they don’t use hybrid technology on this kind of car instead of those dinky little cars. Then he smiles and says – “Oh did I spoil the secret” – and he zooms off burning gallons of fuel a minute. In print across the screen we learn that this car now gets 50% more mpg. In small print it tells you that’s up to 14mpg from the 9mpg it used to get in the city – and now 20mpg on the highway. Wow, why wouldn’t you want to pay $40,000 to $50,000 for a car that can now get that kind of mileage a mini-van gets without hybrid technology. Gas prices are falling, so let’s buy big cars again! Why isn’t that auto maker putting hybrid technology in that mini-van? And, we just gave America’s automakers $25 billion to bail them out – what, so they could make bigger SUV with hybrid technology?

Are we stupid? Do they think we are that stupid? Don’t answer that – we don’t want to really know.