A whole lot of crockery

Claymation: Browsers and shoppers at the Spruce Pine Potters Market, which highlights works by potters primarily from Mitchell and Yancey counties. Photo by Richard Kennedy

North Carolina’s pottery tradition stems from the very makeup of its geography: lots of clay. While the clay-laden soil may be a challenge for gardeners, it also provides a rich supply of artistic material. The use of local clay has been part of our history for a long time, with pottery shards dating back to 1000 B.C. Now, very few potters still dig their own clay, but nonetheless, a strong community of clay artists lives on this section of clay earth.

Mitchell and Yancey county potters are as plentiful as they are successful. Collectives such as Potters on the Roan and Spruce Pine Potters Market unite artists who live and work in these areas. They provide platforms to keep the regional traditions of clay strong.

Notably, Spruce Pine Potters Market is a destination event where regional potters sell their wares in the Cross Street Building in downtown Spruce Pine. The show hosts approximately 30 potters in a range of forms and styles. Attracting collectors, tourists and curious browsers, the pottery ranges from functional to sculptural to subtle to bold.

Although the artists must be from nearby regions, there are select ceramic crafters from outside the two counties that are invited to participate. This year, Asheville potter Karen Newgard is one of the guest participants. Newgard makes functional decorative work using the process of sgraffito to create striking surface designs.

“I love all the work done by the potters exhibiting in the show, so when I was asked to be a visiting artist, I jumped at the chance,” says Newgard. “Not only to be surrounded by such great pots, but to have a weekend of conversations with people who are interested in pottery.”

Jeannine Marchand of Spruce Pine uses clay to create elegant sculptural forms that reference the folds and shapes of silken fabric. She is invested in the material and explores its versatility. “I've had clay in my life since I was 7 years old, and everything I make, or have made, has been created because of an ongoing dialogue with the material,” says Marchand.

Courtney Martin, exhibiting artist from Bakersville, makes functional dinnerware with bold motifs. “Handmade pottery is a pleasure to use,” she says. “Eating off of something handmade and beautiful is as important to me as the food itself.”

Chefs and foodies would probably agree that the presentation and plating of the food is just as integral to the dining experience.

The joint efforts of artists in the pottery community have sustained the region’s presence as a destination for earthenware. Martin shares, “I find a lot of value in being part of such a strong and supportive community — there’s real camaraderie between potters. And if I run out of a material, I can always call a neighbor — like asking for a cup of sugar!”

what: Spruce Pine Potters Market
where: Cross Street Commerce Building, 31 Cross St., Spruce Pine
when: Saturday, Oct. 12 and Sunday, Oct. 13 (10 a.m.-5 p.m. http://SprucePinePottersMarket.com)


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.