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.
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.
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.
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.