Archive for November, 2009

A Visit to the 2009 Celebration of Seagrove Potters Festival in Seagrove, NC – Part III

Monday, November 30th, 2009

This shouldn’t be too long (right), but I just wanted to make some observations/suggestions about the pottery festivals, Seagrove, the potters there and the NC Pottery Center.

I’ll begin with the NC Pottery Center. I know it would probably be hard to find more volunteers to do this, but I think the Center should stay open extra hours, from 4-6pm – until the Friday night Gala Preview opens for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters. Most people in Seagrove who support the Center are probably involved with the festival and the Gala, but there were a lot of folks who were driving by the Pottery Center after 4pm – looking for something to do.

There may have been a lot of folks who arrived in Seagrove early for the Gala – folks who may have only planned to go to the Gala, and although there were plenty of potteries open to visit – they may have hoped to see the exhibit at the NC Pottery Center – Fire in the Valley: Catawba Valley Pottery Then and Now, which will be on view through Jan. 30, 2010..

I also think they should try to be open Sunday while both festivals are still going on. It’s the one weekend in Seagrove when the most people interested in pottery are in town and I would think it would be good for the Pottery Center to be open.

But I understand that this small town of 250 might already be stretched to capacity as to how much more it can do. So, this might be a good opportunity for those supporters of the NC Pottery Center who live outside of the Seagrove area to step up and answer the call of duty on this weekend so the Pottery Center can still man a booth at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters.

I hope you’ll understand why the Pottery Center is not involved with the Seagrove Pottery Festival since its organizers, the Bobbsey Twins of the pottery world, have tried their best or worst to close it down.

Another observation is that I think the idea, supplied by Michael Mahan of From the Ground Up pottery of offering collaborative works for the Gala Preview auction – is one of the greatest ideas I know of in fundraising. It brings the potters together – as if they could get any closer, creates a unique opportunity for pottery collectors (some of the potters even made bids on these works) and gives the Celebration a good promotional tool which can draw even more people to the Gala Preview.

On the question of should there be more collaborative works offered or less – I don’t know. Perhaps the number should be tied to how many advance tickets are sold to the Gala Preview. If next year’s ticket sales are increased by a few hundred more folks like this year – there may be a need for more collaborative items to be offered at the auction. But the balance is delicate as the main goal of the festival is for the potteries to sell pottery. Still, I would guess some people were drawn especially to the Gala Preview for the collaborative works.

My message to those Seagrove potters participating in the Seagrove Pottery Festival (the other pottery festival taking place in Seagrove that weekend), which I have nothing against is – look for new leadership before you become just another arts and craft festival. The Celebration of Seagrove Potters has the right idea in how to keep the heritage and traditions of the true Seagrove area alive. Your festival is drifting in the wrong direction – with the wrong captain at the wheel.

I’m not saying there is no room for two festivals – in fact, I think two festivals is drawing more people to Seagrove. Some people are probably drawn to Seagrove with the notion that they might see some sign of a feud – a feud that doesn’t really exist between the potters. There are always a few publicity hounds in every community and once they have tasted the spotlight, they’ll do anything, say anything, to keep those lights shining on them. It’s not about you, the potters – it’s always going to be about them – your fearless leaders. They are steering the ship and they don’t care where it goes – even a crash on the rocks is good attention for them. You need to start thinking for yourself – what’s good for you and what’s good for your community – not one 50 miles away.

And, finally, I hope the State of North Carolina gets that rest area and welcome center near Seagrove opened on Hwy. 220 (the future I-74) soon. And, I hope it represents the Seagrove area in a true light. There is a big difference between trying to get people to take the next exit and explore and getting them to make a 50 mile detour to Sanford, NC, to see what some people call Seagrove pottery. It’s best to keep politics out of North Carolina’s heritage and cultural offerings. No amount of legislation is going to make Sanford Seagrove or allow Sanford to replace Seagrove. Let Sanford be Sanford and Seagrove be Seagrove.

And, Hwy. 220 (the future I-74) also needs better signage informing folks traveling that road that there are not just area potteries at various exits around Seagrove – it should say that there are over 100 individual potteries in a very small area to explore. A few more words on a sign is not that much more to ask. If it was South Carolina – there would be 30 – 40 massive billboards in a 10 mile stretch. No one wants that, but a few more words on the official highway signs for Seagrove potteries would be better – much better.

PS – Did I win any of the raffles?

A Visit to the 2009 Celebration of Seagrove Potters Festival in Seagrove, NC – Part II

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Well, Saturday morning started with breakfast and a scan of the Greensboro newspaper, the News & Record to see if there was anything there about the Celebration of Seagrove Potters. There was an article there about the two pottery festivals going on in Seagrove, NC (from the High Point Enterprise). Things must be getting pretty bad at the News & Record– out of the four pages I pulled out of the paper which had the article about the festivals, most of the articles on the pages were from the High Point Enterprise, The Associated Press, Wire Reports, and the Charlotte Observer. I guess the N&R handled the obituaries. They’re looking like a cut and paste newspaper. Maybe the N&R owns the Enterprise – lets hope so. Oh well, times are tough for newspapers – Carolina Arts included.

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This article was a little one-sided, leaning toward the Seagrove Pottery Festival – with some info being supplied by the lesser of the two Bobbsey Twins of the pottery world. Having just stepped in a cow pie over numbers of potteries/potters participating at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters, I thought it was funny that this Bobbsey was using the figure – “80 of the area’s potters” were at his festival. I guess that’s a pretty liberal use of the word “area”. At least he didn’t use the word Seagrove, even though he and his boss got the NC Legislature to declare several neighboring counties to officially be considered to be in the Seagrove area too. Saying it don’t make it so, but it gives them the excuse to call just about anyone they want a Seagrove potter. At least the article mentioned both pottery festivals. But, what’s the deal with featuring a Civil War re-enactment at the Seagrove Pottery Festival. I guess it fits since pretty soon, Big Boss Bobbsey Twin will want potters from Seagrove to secede from Seagrove and declare Sanford, NC, to be the real Seagrove of NC. Wait for it.

So we headed for Seagrove. It was a much shorter drive from Greensboro for me – how about that? I guess they’re right – location is everything. In my arrival Friday I only saw signs for the Celebration, but on Saturday there were a few signs for the other festival, but when it came for the turnoff from Hwy. 705 in Seagrove for the Seagrove Pottery Festival there were a couple of guys with a big sign saying “Pottery Festival” waving people to turn, but most people like us just drove right on by towards Luck’s Cannery. That was the only sign of any pottery wars going on in Seagrove.

I had forgotten that the festival on Saturday started at 9am – so we were late for the start and lots of people were piling into the parking lots and many already leaving. I guess it pays to look at your ticket stub. We ended way back around the buildings from the night before, but in a better space – closer to the entrance. Outside food vendors were well at work in getting lunch ready and the smells were great. Getting in the front door took a little longer and when we finally got in – the place was really packed.

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We sort of got to wave at some folks to let them know we were back, but the crowd didn’t exactly let us talk to people again. Plus today, my friend and official photographer of the day, Will Ravenel, was shopping. Moving around took some skill.

While trying to get to Bulldog Pottery we noticed that there was hardly anything left at Jugtown Pottery. I asked Pam Owens, one of the Owens clan from Jugtown what they were going to do for Sunday or the rest of Saturday for that matter – she shrugged her shoulders and said – maybe we won’t have to come back tomorrow? I thought that strange, but later learned that Jugtown doesn’t usually do pottery festivals, but was doing the Celebration to be supportive, and I had forgotten for the moment that all these booths – also have folks manning their regular potteries in Seagrove – where there is much more inventory.

That was another thing different about Saturday. The Friday Gala Preview had all the folks from the potteries on hand, but come Saturday some had to stay at home to manage the potteries and on the drive in there were lots of people at the potteries too.

At one point we came across a booth that was unmarked by a sign as to which pottery it was – again it helps if you pick up a program or remember to bring the one to got from the night before. People were really crowding in around this booth. We finally got close enough to see some of the pottery and we both liked what we saw. We eventually learned that this was Ray Pottery. There was a line of people with pots and objects in their hands waiting to give these folks money. Later after a few more turns around the room – there was still a line of people waiting to buy. A nice problem to have.

During a pass by Whynot Pottery, still unable to get close, I picked up a flyer for the Catawba Valley Pottery & Antiques Festival, which will take place on March, 27, 2010, at the Hickory Metro Convention Center in Hickory, NC. They have a Friday Night Preview Party too, scheduled for March 26, 2010 – also advance tickets only.  The Festival is a fundraising event for two non-profit institutions, the Catawba County Historical Association and the North Carolina Pottery Center. More about this event in another blog entry, but you can check the link now, but come right back – I’m not finished.

Will was making purchases and some of my weekend anxiety was relieved by carrying one of his packages around. But then I started to worry about the folks I had said I couldn’t buy during this trip – seeing me with a big bag and thinking – those newspaper types – they’ll say anything. So the anxiety came right back. But at least give me credit for recruiting Will to the event, which lead to purchases of Seagrove pottery. And, besides the crowd was too heavy and the booths were so busy, I doubt anyone noticed me, much less anything else a few feet away from their nose.

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Takuro Shibata of STARworks Ceramics explaining clay making process.

Finally we found a booth that wasn’t too crowded. It was the STARworks Ceramics booth. They make clay down in Star, NC, a little south of Seagrove on Hwy 220 (the future I-74). We talked with Takuro Shibata, the director of STARworks Ceramics. We had looked up their site Friday night when we got back to Greensboro after talking with Nancy Gottovi, the executive director of STARworks NC. We also watched a video that was playing on an Apple computer in their booth (a good sign for both Will and I – diehard Apple folks) about their clay making process. Santiago Ramirez, the operations manager at STARworks Ceramics also gave us a lesson about clay that was very interesting. We were learning a lot about clay, glazes, pottery processes, and the pottery biz – which is another side of the festival which I think most of the crowd was missing, but I’m glad for the potter’s sake that most people there were interested in buying Seagrove pottery.

I did finally meet one of my first contacts with the Seagrove area, Jennie Lorette Keatts of JLK Jewelry and Shop at Jugtown Pottery. She has helped supply me with info about Seagrove and the potters there – as far as five years back, but more recently helping supply photos for the blog and coordinating Carolina Arts‘ media sponsorship of the Celebration. That’s the way it is in this biz – I deal with folks on a monthly basis – some who I have never met face to face in all these years.

I think the last potter I got a chance to talk with was Michael Mahan of From the Ground Up pottery. That’s where I learned from his wife, Mary Holmes, that it was his idea about the collaborative pottery pieces for the auction on Friday. It takes a wife sometimes to give credit where credit is due.

We ate a lunch of stir-fry from a new restaurant which had moved from the west coast to Asheboro, NC – Pacific Rim Noodle House. That was some good eating and outside was wonderful. The selection of food was very good – it seems they had everything covered. It’s hard to believe this festival is only in its second year.

Back in the building the crowd in the back room with the booths seemed to have gotten larger and tick tock it was 1 o’clock already, a time I had set when I had to leave to return to Bonneau, SC, headquarters of Carolina Arts.

On the way out I got to see Sid Luck of Luck’s Ware doing a pottery demo for a few minutes – he makes it look so easy. I really didn’t want to leave – there was still so much to see and another auction scheduled for 4pm on Saturday, but I had to go. All good things must come to an end.

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Sid Luck doing his magic.

Before I left the building, on the way to the restroom – I’m no dummy, I noticed that there was one copy of Carolina Arts left on the check-in desk. I asked the woman standing there if that’s all they had – she said I could take it, and I said I have plenty. She looked back at me with a funny look and I replied – it’s my paper and that I have more in the car. So I went and restocked their pile. A lot of folks were probably seeing their first copy of the paper. No surprise to me, but good for us.

Leaving the cannery there were still tons of folks coming in for the festival. When back in Seagrove I decided to drive by the other festival – there were a lot of people there too – so I would guess that both festivals did well and hopefully will learn that they both offer something that will draw people to Seagrove which is good for all. Let’s hope that sinks in to one group soon, but with the Bobbsey Twins of the pottery world leading them on (I mean literally leading them on) – don’t hold your breath.

Three and a half hours later I was back home in Bonneau. On the ride back home I was listening to a book on CD – Hard Row by Margaret Maron – another discovery from that area of North Carolina. Maron has provided me with background info on the pottery world in Seagrove, the furniture market in High Point and other characteristics of this area of NC. Her books are always a good listen. Perhaps her new book will be Showdown at the Seagrove Pottery Festivals – who knows.

A Visit to the 2009 Celebration of Seagrove Potters Festival in Seagrove, NC – Part I

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

I’m going to let you know right off the bat – this could be a three-parter with all the info I have to offer about this event. It involves much more than the Celebration event in itself. So bear with me while I take you on my journey. I hope some of you will enjoy my tale of our shared experience and the rest of you will kick yourself for not taking my advice to attend this festival. Good thing for you – it will take place again next year – bigger and better than the last two I’m sure.

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I left Bonneau, SC, and headed north toward Seagrove about noon Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. That’s a short jaunt from Bonneau to Manning, SC, where I picked up I-95 and then at Florence, SC, I got off on Hwy. 52 which took me to Cheraw, SC, where I picked up Hwy. 1 to Rockingham, NC, and then Hwy. 220 (the future I-74) all the way up to Exit 45 to Seagrove. In a little more than 3 1/2 hours I was in the parking lot of the NC Pottery Center. I can’t wait until that new rest area is opened just before Exit 45 so I don’t have to stop at the one in Ellerbe. Sorry Ellerbe, I know you’re getting the short end of the stick with the new I-74, but you’re going to have to come up with something better than a rest area to attract people there.

I just made it in time to see the exhibit, Fire in the Valley: Catawba Valley Pottery Then and Now, which will be on view through Jan. 30, 2010. There will be a separate posting on that exhibit. This is also where I was going to meet up with my friend Will Ravenel, who was coming from Greensboro, NC, to go with me to the Gala Preview event. Linda, my better half, had to work that weekend. Will had agreed to come as my official photographer, since I can’t talk to people and remember to take photos. Plus, he’s a better photographer than I am. Carolina Arts and I are very grateful for his expertise with cameras, computers, websites, blogging and just about anything else technical – and, he asks some pretty good questions as well. He has joined me on several trips to Seagrove and I think he really enjoys it as much as I do.

Will arrived about an hour before the Gala Preview opened so we headed to the Westmoore Family Restaurant – a great place to get some good food at a pretty good price. But, I’m sure a lot of folks traveling to Seagrove have already found that out. Remember, Seagrove is a town of about 250 people, so you wouldn’t expect a lot of places to dine. Asheboro, NC, is just 12 miles away, so you can find everything you might need for a trip to Seagrove there. We knew there was going to be food at the Gala, but we couldn’t think of anything else to do in the meantime. Everyone in Seagrove was getting ready for one pottery festival or another.

Once we finished our dinner we headed back up Hwy. 705, the Pottery Highway, toward Seagrove to the historic Luck’s Cannery where the Celebration of Seagrove Potters was taking place. The closer we got to the turnoff the more cars joined in the line headed to the same place. The Police Officers directing traffic in and out of the Cannery did a great job of moving traffic and the parking attendants found us a place to park very quickly. Both groups did a great job all weekend long moving the horde of people in and out. I’ve waited longer to cross the street in downtown Charleston, SC.

Now it might seem like a lot of stuff – before we step foot through the door to the event I’m blogging about, but it’s all part of the experience – something I think everyone should know. It would be like blogging about an art walk in downtown Charleston, SC, and not mentioning the fact that it may have taken 20-30 minutes to drive around before you found a parking spot and that you were three blocks away from where you would like to be – and that’s someone who knows the city well. It’s all part of the experience. I hate it when people act like they just magically appeared at some event – no hassle at all. What’s not worth doing even it involves a few hassles?

OK, so we’re in the door – we have our tickets (no tickets are sold at the door so you have to buy them in advance – remember that) and right off there are copies of Carolina Arts on the check-in desk. My night was made already. We were one of the media sponsors of this event, but that doesn’t always mean you’re going to be treated in a manner you always hope for – I left the event filled with the glow that our sponsorship was not only appreciated but celebrated. That’s never a bad thing. And, in almost 100 percent of those situations, we are happy to renew our sponsorship – year after year.

So, to answer the questions on everyone’s minds who read my two previous entries about this festival: there was no sign of the Bobbsey Twins of the pottery world or any hired goons making my visit an unpleasant experience. But I did turn my head every time I heard the word Tom shouted a little louder than normal – as if someone was giving me a warning. And, no pottery was sacrificed in any scrambles of people trying to get away from me.

We filled out our ticket stubs for the raffle items and then moved on past the line for food (which looked great), but we had just finished dinner, but we found a dessert table – with lots of desserts. We visited that table several times that evening. We then checked out the items to be auctioned that evening – the collaborative pieces – most done by two different Seagrove potters – a few face jugs done by three different potters and a few done by husband and wife potter teams. Just looking at some of the works and seeing the names associated with them – I knew the bidding would be way over a lot of peoples’ heads – especially mine, plus I was out of the pottery purchasing game altogether this trip. My little joke of the night was that – I’d love to buy something, but I have a struggling arts newspaper instead. Ha Ha. That was the only miserable part of this trip. It was killing me.

We headed into the part of the building where the pottery booths were. Apparently that was a new feature this year. Last year the festival was held in one big space and this year there was a divided wall up separating the entry room where the auction would take place and the entertainment, food, drink, and information tables were set up. This new wall was important in that the band playing in one room didn’t add to the noise of the crowd around the pottery booths so you could talk and the people wanting to hear the music didn’t have to deal with crowd noise. Plus while the auction was taking place people could and were still shopping.

We made a quick tour around the big room divided into three pathways – stopping to talk (when we could – the place was packed) with potters from places we visited during the spring kiln openings earlier this year and fellow bloggers I now think of as friends – Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke of Bulldog Pottery (Samantha’s father – Ed Henneke was there too) and Meredith and Mark Heywood of Whynot Pottery. Some folks we never did get to talk to that night even after several passes – they were tied up with customers. To me sales always come first – whether I’m on the phone with someone or in their gallery or studio – if customers come in – everything is on hold until business is concluded. Business is business.

Blogger’s Note: My apologies to Meredith and Mark Heywood – I keep trying to make them Haywoods.

So, in-between trying to say hi to some folks we roamed around to wherever our eyes took us. At one point we were at David Stuempfle’s booth of Stuempfle Pottery admiring his very big pots and we met Nancy Gottovi who turned out to be the executive director of STARworks NC, located just off Hwy. 220 (the future I-74) in Star, NC. She answered some questions we had about Stuempfle’s work and wood-fired salt glazes and then we talked about STARworks and Central Park NC – but for now you’ll have to check the links and wait for a separate entry on that facility.

At Whynot Pottery’s booth we got an explanation of crystalline glazes and how that works. We were really fascinated by that glaze technique. And I asked about something I thought of on the ride up to Seagrove. I wondered what kind of objects children made in art class in a community like Seagrove – home to over 100 potteries. I had bet myself that the pottery sessions were better than the ones I had in school back in Michigan. Some of the children’s parents would be some of the area’s potters. These are kids who have been hanging around potteries most of their lives – of course they made more interesting objects out of clay than the rest of us and with programs organized by the NC Pottery Center and taught by area potters – why wouldn’t they be better? Of course many turned out like my creations did – we can’t all be gifted artists.

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Here I am (before Thanksgiving, if you can believe it,) talking with Meredith Heywood trying to remember what my first creations in clay looked like.

At the booth for Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery (Fred Johnston and Carol Gentithes) I picked up a flyer for the second Cousins In Clay event which will take place in Seagrove on June 5 & 6, 2010. This expanded version will include the Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery as well as Bulldog Pottery.Michael Kline will be returning to Bulldog Pottery with Val Cushing and Allison McGowen will be a guest at Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery. Put that on your calendars.

While we were looking around Will was beginning to think that Saturday – the first day of the Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival – he might have to do some early Christmas shopping. He was seeing lots of possibilities. Lucky stiff.

Just before 8pm we headed back into the first room to find a good spot to observe the auction. I thought – this is going to be interesting and I wasn’t let down.

As I said in one of my earlier entries about the festival – these items were one-of-a- kind works. You can’t get a piece where two different potters from different potteries worked on a special creation together – so there were some people there ready to spend some money to call those works theirs. And, some of the teams were made up of very high profile potters. The bottom line is that the Friday night auction took in $10,000 which would be used for programs in the Seagrove community and promotion of the event.

I can’t give you details of the entire auction – this would go on forever – just like some of the bidding did – back and forth between two competing bidders and just when you thought the bidding was over a third bidder would throw their hand up – starting the bidding back and forth again.

Here’s a few of the highlights. A vase by Bruce Gholson and Samantha Henneke (Bulldog Pottery) went for $600. A turtle created by Blaine Avery (Avery Pottery & Tileworks) and Carol Gentithes (Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery) went for $550. Two small vases created by Donna Craven (Donna Craven Pottery) and Samantha Henneke (Bulldog Pottery) demanded a high bid of $725. A very small melon vase by Ben Owen III (Ben Owen Pottery) and Will McCanless (McCanless Pottery) went for $400. But the big winner of the auction was a work by Ben Owen III (Ben Owen Pottery) and Fred Johnston (Johnston & Gentithes Art Pottery) that took in $1650 before the bidding was over. All of these potters make pots that sell for more than these works took in, but it was really great of them to donate special works for this auction.

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Here is Ben Owen III holding up a work at the auction he and Will McCanless created.

This event was very exciting to watch – some people got some real bargains and others paid perhaps beyond what I’m sure they wanted to, but they walked away with some items – all us spectators wished we were going home with. I know I was drooling over most of the works offered.

By the way, the idea of making collaborative works to auction off was the idea of Michael Mahan of From the Ground Up pottery. He wanted the Celebration to offer something special – something different from other pottery festivals. Perhaps this idea stemming from the positive energy he puts in his creations – soul pots, peace pots – with feelings of love and kindness. I’m not making fun – we all can use a lot more peace, love and kindness in today’s world.

I later learned on Saturday that the Gala Preview may have attracted a few hundred more people than the first year’s event and I’m sure more will be there next year as the word gets out. But for the record – final figures on attendance and money raised will come later – the figures offered here are just what I’ve heard so far, nothing concrete. I’m watching out for the cow pies. (A reference to earlier blog entries.)

Will and I had a good time – learned a lot about pottery and had some good conservations about all kinds of things. When we got back to Greensboro we watched a DVD of the new Star Trek movie – which was also very good – Saturday at the Celebration would be another day and another entry.

Bloggers Note: Of course the minute the Celebration of Seagrove Potters and the Seagrove Pottery Festival ended Sunday afternoon – these potters could take a long deserved rest – wrong! Many are scrambling to get ready for other shows, like the 40th Annual Carolina Designer Craftsmen’s Fine Craft + Design Show at the Exhibition Center at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 27 – 29, 2009, or kiln opening at their own potteries coming in December. This is a busy and critical time for these folks, so if you didn’t make it to either of these festivals – they sure would like you to come to Seagrove to do some holiday shopping. A handmade gift of pottery is better than anything you can find waiting in line in the dark early Friday morning after Thanksgiving.

Redux Contemporary Art Center’s Artists Open Their Curtains to the Public in Charleston, SC – Dec. 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

This bi-annual event celebrates the diversity and vitality of the visual arts at Redux (www.reduxstudios.org). Come see 20 artists in their working environment and gain insight about their technique and process.

Redux is home to Charleston’s most creative artists. Each artist at Redux concentrates on developing a personal artistic vision. Redux’s exhibition program and events program makes for a resourceful location that has a supportive atmosphere where studio renters are constantly exposed to visiting artists, artist lectures and most importantly, the ideas of their neighbors. This results in a creative momentum for everyone.

This event offers a unique opportunity to experience artists at work in their own studios. Visitors can look at art, talk with artists, and learn about new techniques, all in an open-house, informal environment. While you enjoy the variety and quality of the artwork, you will be supporting art, artists, and a valuable tradition in the city.

There is, of course, no charge to the public, and aspiring artists of all ages are especially welcome!

Current Redux artists include: Sally Benedict, Tina Christophillis, Shannon Di, Kaminer Haislip, Michael Heagerty, Tim Hussey, Barbara Looney, Karin Olah, Tommy Ozmore, Timothy Pakron, Nate Phelps, Chase Porter, Isa Salazar, Nancy Santos, Kate Long Stevenson, Liz Vaughan, Luke Vehorn, Lesley Wamsley, Ivy Williams and Lindsay Windham.

Redux Contemporary Art Center is a non-profit gallery, studio, and education center. Through diverse programming and a full studio facility, Redux promotes and encourages all forms of artistic creation, while introducing and educating the public to current trends of contemporary visual art. The Redux Studio Program offers emerging and under-represented artists full access to professional artist studios. Individuals work in a productive atmosphere alongside other contemporary artists. The 6000 sq. ft. space is equipped with 15 private artist studios and Charleston’s only public darkroom and print shop.

Redux Contemporary Art Center is located at 136 St. Philip Street, in downtown Charleston, SC.

For further information call the Center at 843/722-0697 or visit (www.reduxstudios.org).

And, I’ll add this as it wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the press release – these artists would also be very pleased if you purchased some of the artworks they have made. Some in the art community don’t like talking about selling art. I’m a pimp for the visual arts – I never mind bringing up prices. It costs money to be an artist, it’s hard work, studio rent is due every month – so it’s a good thing when the public buys art so artists can do what they do best – create art.

So go and revel in the supportive atmosphere at Redux, but it would be really nice if you purchased something to take home – even if it’s just a membership to Redux.

Coming Events in the North Carolina Pottery World – Dec. 2009

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

New info added at bottom 11/25/09

We have received some notices about pottery events which will be taking place in North Carolina this December. So here’s a rundown of what we have received at this point.

UNC Asheville’s Art Department will hold its annual holiday ceramic and art sale from 4-7pm on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009, and 10am-2pm Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009, in UNC Asheville’s Tucker Cooke Gallery, located on the ground floor of Owen Hall in Asheville, NC. The sale is open to the public.

A wide variety of functional and decorative items crafted by UNC Asheville students will be on sale with prices beginning at $5. Proceeds will benefit the Art Department.

For more information, call UNC Asheville’s Art Department at 828/251-6559 or visit (www.unca.edu/art).

Did you see that folks – prices starting at $5!!!

Courtney Martin and John Geci will be opening their studios in Bakersville, NC, as part of the Toe River Arts Council’s TRAC Studio Tour, being held Dec. 4, 2009, from noon-4pm and Dec. 5 & 6, 2009, from 10am-5pm. Maps can be downloaded at the Tour website (www.toeriverarts.org).

The two will be offering new works in glass by John Geci and works from Courtney Martin’s kiln opening. Special guest artist Zack Noble will be joining them for the Tour event.

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Courtney Martin

If you can’t make it to the tour event, Martin and Geci will conduct an online sale on Dec. 9, 2009, beginning at 9am on Esty – for further info check back at Martin’s website at (www.courtneymartinpottery.com).

For further info call 828/467-1414 or 828/467-4956.

Linda and I purchased a work from Courtney Martin at one of the fall Crafts Fairs of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in Asheville, NC. Of course that was before the economy crashed. But you don’t have a struggling arts newspaper so you can buy in our place.

On Saturday, Dec. 12, 2009, Molly Lithgo and Jim Rientjes, who own and operate Earthworks Pottery Studio in Greensboro, NC, will offer their Annual Holiday Open House & Studio Show, from 9am-5pm, at 636 South Cedar St., in Greensboro. That’s off the Elm Street area in Greensboro.

Both artists are passionate about working with their hands, but each present a separate vision about working with clay.

Lithgo is primarily a wheel thrower and is inspired by nature and organic form. These decorative pots easily exemplify her love of color and the drawing process. She also enjoys manipulating the wet clay by altering the pots after they are thrown.

Rientjes is primarily a handbuilder and is inspired by geometric shapes and massive form. He also enjoys surface decoration created by various texturing tools and found objects. His poured glazes interact with one another and flow together into beautiful abstract patterns.

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Molly Lithgo

Lithgo and Rientjes each use rich red earthenware clay to produce functional pieces for daily enjoyment. Both support and believe that choosing to use beautifully handcrafted items enriches daily life.

For further info call 336/275-1202, e-mail to (mlithgo@triad.rr.com) or visit (www.mollylithgo.com).

I know this stuff as I took it right off their website.

New – added 11/25//09

In association with The Artery, the new UNC-Chapel Hill student art gallery, the UNC-Chapel Hill Art Department will present the Third Annual Student Holiday Print & Art Sale – one day only, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009, from 9am to 9:30pm.

Here is your opportunity to purchase original student artworks at very reasonable prices. You will find great art gifts for the Holidays including etchings, ceramics, screenprints, photographs, drawings, digital works, and paintings.

Come visit our new gallery space at 137 East Rosemary Street in Chapel Hill, NC (or just follow the signs through the Bank of America building atrium) and see what UNC’s best young artists have been up to.

For further info contact: Mike Sonnichsen, Lecturer, Print & Photo Labs Coordinator
UNC Department of Art by e-mail at (msonic@unc.edu) or check (http://thestudentartery.blogspot.com/).

So there you go some info about upcoming pottery events in North Carolina.

Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Unveils Charlotte, NC’s Newest Public Art Piece

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

Over the next two years, Center City Charlotte will be transformed by the development of the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus (formerly the Wachovia Cultural Campus), which will include an expanded Mint Museum of Art, the new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) and the new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. What a boon this is for the visual arts in the Charlotte area and the Carolinas.

The new Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture opened in Oct. 2009 and now we have another announcement about the Cultural Campus. Stay tuned to Carolina Arts Unleashed for all the latest updates on the Cultural Campus.

The new Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has unveiled The Firebird, a playful, monumental outdoor sculpture that will greet visitors on their way to the museum when it opens on Jan. 2, 2010.

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The Firebird is Charlotte’s newest work of privately-owned public art and is a permanent fixture in the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art collection. Standing 17-feet 5-inches tall, the sculpture is a whimsical, bird-like creature covered from top to bottom in pieces of mirrored and colored glass. The Firebird was installed on the plaza of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art facing South Tryon Street and overlooking the new Wells Fargo Cultural Campus where the museum is located.

Created in 1991 by French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), the sculpture was purchased by museum patron Andreas Bechtler specifically for placement in front of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Bechtler, a Charlotte resident and native of Switzerland, was looking for a sculpture to serve as a counterpoint to the geometric lines of the museum’s architecture, designed by renowned Swiss architect Mario Botta.

“When I saw The Firebird, I knew it was outstanding. I knew it would be great for the museum,” Andreas Bechtler said. “The Firebird is joyful, uplifting and engaging. It makes you feel that life is good.”

The unveiling ceremony included remarks from Cyndee Patterson, Board Chair of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art; Heinz Roth, Honorary Consul of Switzerland; Urs Ziswiler, Swiss Ambassador to the United States; Andreas Bechtler and John Boyer, President and CEO of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. Also in attendance was Laura Gabriela Duke, the daughter of The Firebird artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

“The Bechtler is excited to celebrate the great legacy of Niki de Saint Phalle with the placement of The Firebird – a piece that we trust will serve as an exciting and welcoming gesture to Charlotte visitors and everyone who comes to the Wells Fargo Cultural Campus,” said museum President and CEO John Boyer.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler. Bechtler assembled and inherited a collection of more than 1,400 artworks created by major figures of 20th-century modernism and committed it to the city of Charlotte.

The Bechtler collection comprises artworks by seminal figures such as Alberto Giacometti, Joan Miro, Max Ernst, Andy Warhol, Le Corbusier, Sol LeWitt, Edgar Degas, Nicolas de Stael, Barbara Hepworth and Picasso. Books, photographs and letters illustrating personal connections to the Bechtler family accompany some of the works in the collection. Only a handful of the artworks have been on public view in the United States.

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is located at 420 South Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte. The museum opens to the public on Jan. 2, 2010. For museum details visit (www.bechtler.org).

To read an entry we posted about the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, just click this link.

To read an entry we posted about the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture, just click this link.

2nd Annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters Takes Place Nov. 20 – 22, 2009, in Seagrove, NC – #3.1

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The .1 represents my Cow Pie entry, but this will be the last entry about the Celebration of Seagrove Potters 2009 festival – before it takes place. Of course we will have a follow-up as to how it went. And, like entry #2, instead of going over the details again I’m just going to offer this link to a previous entry I made giving a lot of details and a link to the Celebration of Seagrove Potters website where you can find out more than you ever wanted to about the festival.

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What I have to offer this time is photos of works that will be offered by auction at the Friday night Gala Preview on Nov. 20, 2009, at the Historic Luck’s Cannery in Seagrove. I’m sure tickets are still available on the festival’s website (www.CelebrationOfSeagrovePotters.com). They are just $35 – but must be purchased in advance. So don’t dither as Dick Cheney says. But, then again – don’t take his advice – look what happened to others that did. Take my advice – get your ticket now, if you haven’t already.

Many of these works are a two for one – one pottery creation – created in collaboration by two matched Seagrove potters. You can’t buy pottery like that everyday. And, you can’t buy them if you don’t go to the Gala Preview. And, (there is always another “and” isn’t there?) you can’t buy these works unless you’re the highest bidder. So we’ll see who the real “top” pottery collectors are Friday night.

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Now, Friday is not just for the high-rolling auction bidders, a ticket to the Gala Preview also gives you access to the potter’s booths – first chance to buy before the festival opens Saturday. And, like most galas – there will be beverages, food and live music and lots of rubbing of elbows with Seagrove potters, major pottery collectors and high muckety mucks of the pottery world. Don’t tell the Bobbsey Twins that I might be there – (You know who they are – one’s from Sanford, NC, and one’s from wherever the first one tells him he’s from – see Cow Pie entry for a clue.) There may even be a hord of media types searching for signs of a feud. But I don’t think they’ll find any – except in the minds of the Bobbsey Twins. All the excitement Friday evening will come from who wins high bids on the unique collaborative pieces. Besides, the Bobbsey Twins have their own pottery festival to organize.

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Of course if you can’t come Friday night – Saturday or Sunday will do just fine. The kilns of Seagrove have been burning away – right up to the last minute to provide as many visitors with the opportunity to go home with a work made by a Seagrove potter. And, that’s what you get at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters – the opportunity and guarantee that what you buy will come from a Seagrove potter.

Enough said – go – buy – enjoy.

One last favor to ask. If you are there and you see me (that is for those few who know what I look like) – don’t go shouting out my name or say – there’s Tom Starland from Carolina Arts. I don’t want to be responsible for a lot of broken pots when people scatter to get out of the way or line of fire. Just give me a wink.

Charleston County Public Library Offers Another Interesting Exhibit with Works by Jerry Comstock

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Once again, an exhibit in the Saul Alexander Foundation Gallery at the Main Branch of the Charleston County Public Library in downtown Charleston, SC, has caught my attention. I was delivering the Nov. 09 issue of Carolina Arts to the Library when I got the chance to see an exhibit of mixed media works by Jerry Comstock – on view through Nov. 30, 2009.

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Flowers

Here were works of a type that I have not often seen in Charleston. It seems the Library’s exhibit selection committee has really selected a wide variety of work to be presented this year. And, this time I had my camera with me so I can show more of the work without trying to stretch my limited vocabulary in describing them. I don’t speak “art speak” – good thing – it’s hard enough to read it at times while editing some articles for Carolina Arts.

Comstock did not offer much info about himself as an artist – as far as the kind of info you would find on an resume. He didn’t even offer any info as to where he is from, except that his phone number had an 843 area code – which could be anywhere in lower SC. And, you just can’t assume he’s from the Charleston area as the Library has been presenting exhibits by artists from all over South Carolina. Does it matter where he is from? I don’t think so, but it’s always nice to know. I could call – but he didn’t offer this info and it could have been a deliberate decision on his part for some reason.

Comstock did offer an artist’s statement which told about how he was creative early on as a child. And, it said that he is primarily a carpenter and cabinet builder who doesn’t get much time for his creative endeavors – like those shown in the exhibit, but for most of us – anyone who can do carpentry and make cabinets (with doors that align) – is pretty creative. The works on the wall proved that too.

Like some visionary and outsider artists, Comstock uses leftover materials in making art. In this case, various sheets of wood for his canvases. He also uses other materials found in his work area like Liquid Nail – a bonding glue which Comstock uses to add texture and designs to his works. All the works in this exhibit are on a wood background, except one which is painted on glass. That work is untitled and may have been a late minute addition to fill space in the gallery.

The reason I say that is that Comstock offered some unusual tags to identify each individual work – except the one on glass. He made small glass frames with white lettering printed on the glass. They may have looked good in his studio or work area, but because of the tight lighting in the Saul Alexander Foundation Gallery, a shadow was cast along the top half of most of the frames making them hard to read. A different take on titles, but not the best for this venue.

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It’s no big deal – just an observation. You have to give Comstock credit for trying something different and in another venue they may have worked fine. The good thing is – they didn’t distract me from the main attraction, but it’s worth mentioning so that artists don’t go overboard in making fancy titles that could distract the eye from the artworks. It’s like the problem too many artists have with putting artwork in frames that are more interesting than the artwork. And, sometimes two to three times the size of the artwork. I may be getting in trouble with some framers, but come on – it’s just supposed to be a frame – not a statement of one’s wealth.

What about the work?

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Devil’s Daydream

The piece, Devil’s Daydream, was the most elaborate work of the exhibit, with many things going on in the image. The work is on fiber board (compressed wood chips) which can still be seen through the layers of paint and textured designs. In some places there are layers of colored cartoons or comic strips embedded behind the designs. The two main images offered tell two different stories – in fact the helter skelter designs may indicate that the devil has dreams like the rest of us – bits and pieces of our life being linked together to tell a tale – out of time and out of place. The close-up photo gives a hint of the what is hidden, but cannot show what the human eye can see when peering close into the images details.

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Detail of Devil’s Daydream

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Jacob’s Ladder

The work, Jacob’s Ladder is also very detailed but more organized with a lot of wood grain being offered as part of the overall image. This work will keep you busy trying to figure out all the meanings behind the images and symbols offered.

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Duet to the right

This wide shot of the gallery space is the only way I could get a decent image of the work entitled, Duet. The overall size, its backwards angle and shiny surface prevented me from getting a good close-up image – believe me I tried. Here again, there are patterns and designs layered behind the surface colors and the Liquid Nail glue. The idea of two together comes across plainly, but are the two – unborn, trapped in time and space, or encased in cocoons? It’s the largest work in the exhibit and you can see how it dominates the space. So, I can only assume this image has greater meaning to Comstock than perhaps the message I was receiving.

There was no price sheet offered, so I assume – like most people will, that the works are not for sale, but that could be wrong. I was there early on in this exhibit’s life – perhaps more materials have shown up to provide more info.

I hope you find enough interest here to spark a trip to the main branch of the Charleston County Public Library. You should be going to a library near you on a regular basis anyway – and not just for DVD’s of Star Trek or Sex in the City.

Take a Winter Gallery Walk in Old Town Bluffton, SC – Friday, Nov. 20, 2009

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Well, it may not seem that wintery in Bluffton, SC, by Nov. 20, 2009, but it could be cool after sundown. It seems we’ve been having Indian Summer  in the Carolinas – we just had a tropical storm go through the area – so don’t look for snow flurries anytime soon. But, anything could happen – it snowed in our area last year in November or was that the year before?

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Work by Julia Smoak from Pluff Mud Art

For you readers who do not know the area of South Carolina where Bluffton is located (almost in Georgia) – we could count on one hand how many times it has snowed in a few decades – even fewer the number of times the snow actually accumulated on the ground for more than five minutes. And, if snow does come – it’s usually in February – not November. But, lately – it’s not unusual to have a tropical storm and snow come in the same month. What does that tell you global warming naysayers?

Anyway, in Carolina Arts‘ continuing coverage of the visual arts community in the Carolinas – from the mountains to the sea and from one end of I-95 to the other – we’re bringing you news about a gallery walk in Bluffton – a small community in SC, that is bursting at the seams. You wouldn’t think of the word “small” if you were driving down Hwy. 278 from I-95 to Hilton Head Island, SC, but if you’re standing on Calhoun Street – you’ll get what they mean by – Old Town Bluffton. Pay no attention to what’s happened along 278 in the last ten years – please.

So here’s a little press release from the folks in Bluffton about their gallery walk.

WINTER GALLERY WALK in OLD TOWN BLUFFTON

Friday Nov 20, 2009,  3 – 8pm

Old Town Bluffton’s thriving and eclectic art community will host its annual Winter Gallery Walk on Friday, November 20. Wine and refreshments will be served by each gallery. Visitors can also enjoy live music and browse through Old Town’s “walkable” galleries on Boundary, Church, May River and Calhoun Streets throughout the entire event. The event is sponsored by the Old Town Bluffton Merchants’ Society with funding from local A-tax dollars. Hundreds of visitors to the area and local art patrons have traditionally enjoyed this local art experience.

Participating Galleries include:

Society of Bluffton Artists (48 Boundary Street) 843/757-6586. The SOBA will be presenting an exhibit of works by Helen Evans entitled, Thru My Eyes, plus the artwork of 70 other local artists will be on display.

Old Town Vintage Posters (49 Boundary Street) 843/837-3311.
The exhibit, David Klein Travel Poster, will be on display. Klein is best known for his 1950’s and 1960’s work designing and illustrating travel posters for Howard Huges’ Trans World Airlines (TWA). These works defined the excitement and enthusiasm of the early years of post-war travel.

The Filling Station (Calhoun Street)  843/263-4796.
Art Cornell, painter, photographer and poet, will be signing his books of poetry. Kathy Levey, will be doing woodcut block prints and finishing them with acrylics, Kelly Graham, local lowcountry painter, will demonstrate. David Musial, painter and sculpture of quirky slice of  life images will begin the festivities a 2pm and continue until dark.

Maye River Gallery (37 Calhoun Street) 843/757-2633.
Local ceramic artist Laura Silberman’s collection of holiday ornaments, functional and decorative creations will be featured along with a variety of holiday gift selections from 17 other artists.

Pluff Mudd Art  (27 Calhoun Street) 843/757-5590.
The gallery welcomes five new artists to the gallery including: kiln formed glass by Julia Smoak, jewelry by Pegg Carvell, sweetgrass baskets by Michael Smalls & Daurus Niles, and paintings by Laura Cody. In addition to these new artists, visitors to the gallery will see photography, original paintings, prints, jewelry, fiber art, soda-fired pottery, wood turning, and blown glass by local artists.

Jacob Preston Pottery (10 Church Street) 843/757-3084.
Jacob Preston will be working at his craft in the old Bluffton Tabernacle on Church Street. Visitors can catch a glimpse of the artists as he creates custom sinks and decorative pieces. Keep an eye out for his distinctive glaze-on-glaze feather patterns and carved and inlaid designs reflecting the local environment.

Four Corners Art Gallery and Fine Framing (1263 May River Road) 843/757-8185.
Four Corners will be featuring the Lowcountry photography of Marge Agin. Here in the area for 3 years now, Agin shares her digital manipulative eye in a number of formats. She will introduce a small series of some of her more popular images, some in oversize and some on canvas. Her artistic manipulation of her photos turn them into a painterly expression of what we see each day here in our splendid environment.

For more information contact one of the participating galleries.

After the Cow Pie – Straight Talk About Seagrove Pottery Festivals

Saturday, November 14th, 2009

Well, it didn’t take long after my recent posting about the upcoming Celebration of Seagrove Potters festival which will take place Nov. 20 – 22, 2009, in Seagrove, NC, when I started to get e-mails from a couple of my regular non-fans about the big mistake I had made – counting potters as potteries.

In my irrational exuberance (thank you Allen Greenspan) to be a good media sponsor for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters and in trying to be too cute in making a comparison between the two festivals offered in Seagrove on the same weekend, I made the mistake of using the word “potteries” where I should have used the word “potters”. It’s a big difference.

When I made the statement – “I know there are about 100 potteries in the greater Seagrove area and 85 of them will be at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters.” I was wrong. The number 85 represents individual potters not potteries. There will be almost 60 potteries represented at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters – leaving about 40 from the Seagrove area that could be at the other festival – still less than the Celebration and almost just as many (up to 35) from somewhere else other than Seagrove attending the other festival.

So it was pointed out to me that I was full of what you can find inside a cow pie and that I was, again, being unfair to the other festival.

Well, I pointed out to my non-fans that I did mention the other festival, made a link to their website and suggested to readers that if they didn’t find what they needed at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters – they should go to the other festival – it will be right there in Seagrove. That’s more fair and balanced than FOX News. It would be kind of hard to miss the other festival in such a small community, but, that’s what you get when trying to be a good supporter to one festival and fair to the other.

I have always said to these folks who are not happy with my support of the NC Pottery Center and Seagrove potters that what I’m trying to do is get people to go to Seagrove. What they do when they get there and which potteries they go to – much less what festivals they go to – I don’t really care. It’s a free country and I think visitors will just see potteries in Seagrove and won’t be checking any guides telling which potteries are on what side of the pottery feud going on in Seagrove. (And, for the record – there is no real feud going on in Seagrove.) So every time I’m promoting Seagrove potters – I’m doing work for all Seagrove potters – except for a few.

What really has had a burr up my rear is the real problem in Seagrove and that’s the actions of a few of the organizers of the other festival – the Seagrove Pottery Festival. Don Hudson, a potter from Sanford, NC, and his side kick, Phil Morgan, a potter from Seagrove have been running their own “Tea Party” in NC – attacking potteries and potters who do not line up under their leadership, attacking the NC Pottery Center and even attacking the NC Department of Cultural Resources – for their support of the Pottery Center and Seagrove in general.

I have nothing against the other potteries and potters who participate in the Seagrove Pottery Festival – they’re just trying to make a living like the rest of us, but I cannot support a festival under the control of Hudson and Morgan – a two man wrecking crew.

So I stepped in a cow pie by making my mistake, but my grandparents ran a dairy farm back in Michigan and I’ve stepped in many a cow pie and even learned that they can be useful as a sort of frisby – good for tossing at your older brother. So I’m tossing the cow pie I stepped in back at Don Hudson and Phil Morgan and asking – What’s the deal – have you two always been jerks?

I have an idea as to what Hudson is up to. He’d like to see the reputation of Seagrove pottery dragged through the mud in favor of Sanford, NC – which presents its own pottery festival. What Morgan is up to – I’m not sure he knows, but he must like being a yes man to Hudson.

I’m going to make the corrections to my recent posting – still showing my mistakes. I’m a big boy and I can live with my mistakes, but I’ll correct them when I’m shown I was wrong – but I don’t know how Hudson and Morgan live with what damage they have caused in the last two years.

If they are ever successful in bringing down the NC Pottery Center I will do my best to make sure the art community and community in general – forever knows what these two guys did. But, I don’t think they will be successful in their quest and until that day comes – if it ever does – I’ll not mention them again or anything they are associated with. It’s what they deserve.

So in closing – make sure you go to the Celebration of Seagrove Potters in Seagrove, NC, held from Nov. 20 – 22, 2009. You’ll see lots of potters from Seagrove there – 85 of them.