Posts Tagged ‘Starworks NC’

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.

909seagrovecelebrationlogo

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.

1109crowd2-450x300

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.

1109starworks-450x253
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.

1109sidluck-450x286
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.

909seagrovecelebrationlogo

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.

1109meatwhynot-450x300
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.

1109benwowen-450x3009
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.