McWhirter Pottery, is owned by second-generation potters, Pete and Kim McWhirter. It was Pete’s parents who established the business 1963 to create handmade tableware and accessories. They passed the know-how on to Pete and Kim, who also make face jugs, soap pumps, mugs and more. Each piece is hand-decorated; glazes are lead-free and food-safe.
Interestingly, though he grew up in a family of artists, Pete was initially determined not to follow in his parent’s footsteps. He told that story to Yancey County News. Pete and Kim lived in Celo, and “while I was still working in Asheville, Kim was working with mom, learning to throw clay,” he told the paper. “Apparently, Kore [McWhirter, Pete’s mother] hoped one of her four children would learn the craft and take over the pottery, which in 1970 had moved to its current location on N.C. 80, across the road from South Toe Elementary School. But though the children were all artistic, no one wanted to operate the pottery. In the early ‘90s, Kore turned to Pete. ‘When my mom said I was the last option of the four kids, that’s when I thought I’d give it a try,’ he said.”
There’s a happy ending (or continuum) to this story. Pete learned to love art and, to date, the McWhirter’s place is the oldest operating pottery in Yancey County. This weekend the business, located at 139 Red Clay Rd. in Burnsville, N.C., celebrates its 50th anniversary. There will be a special kiln opening, live music and food vendors.
Events take place all day, today through Sunday, Sept. 8. More info here.