“Spruce Pine Potters Market came about because there is an incredible concentration of talented and well-known potters in our area, many of whom first came to the area because of Penland School of Crafts,” explains Naomi Dalglish of Bandana Pottery. “We would often run into each other when traveling to pottery shows in far-flung reaches of the country and decided it would be a good idea to try and put together our own event in our own backyard.”
Dalglish co-owns Bandana Pottery with her partner, Michael Hunt. The couple, who have been part of the event since its inception, teamed up with 31 other clay artists and potters from Mitchell and Yancey counties to organize the 11th annual Spruce Pine Potters Market, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 and 15.
“At this point, I would guess Western North Carolina enjoys the highest density of artists and craftspeople per capita … in the U.S.,” says Jon Ellenbogen of Barking Spider Pottery. He and his wife, Rebecca Plummer, have been working together for 41 years and have participated in the Spruce Pine Potters Market every year.
This event is a favorite among ceramics enthusiasts in part because it’s entirely organized and managed by the artists, and many of the participants use local clay and glaze materials. The abundance of these materials in WNC helped forge the region’s notoriety as a pottery powerhouse in the 18th and 19th centuries, and organizers have seen a resurgence of interest in using local-only materials in recent years as the mantras of shop and support local permeate many business sectors. “Spruce Pine Potters Market gives our collectors and visitors a chance to see the work in the context of the place from which it emerges,” Dalglish says, “and clay is an intimate art form; a pot is something that people hold close to their bodies and they may interact with every day. Meeting the person who made that object brings that much more meaning to the experience.”
Cristina Córdova, one of the area’s rock star potters, also welcomes the chance to interact with buyers. “Making a living out of a creative practice is based on a symbiotic relationship between the maker and his or her supporters,” she says. “This balance is delicate and persists in this area because of the abundance of high-quality work tied to a fervent audience willing to invest in art and craft.” This tradition, she continues, was set in motion by the programs and events at Penland School of Crafts, which helps to strengthen creative practices. Córdova was an artist-in-residence at Penland for three years, has served on its board of trustees and still shares a ZIP code with the school. The support and ongoing educational and promotional efforts of the Toe River Arts Council are key elements to the success of the Spruce Pine Potters Market and area artists, too, she says.
Visitors to the market can expect to see a wonderful spectrum of utilitarian and sculptural ceramic pieces made in the many studios that lie within a 15-square-mile area. “It is a testament to the abundance of creative practices that coexist in this unique area of the country, and audiences should expect to see techniques that are diverse but all based on a deep knowledge and mastery of the ceramic medium,” says Córdova.
Participating artists also look forward to the event each year because “these talented folks are our friends, many of whom we’ve known for decades,” explains Ellenbogen. Seeing the next generation of families whose parents first bought dinnerware from Barking Spider 30 years ago is another treat for Ellenbogen and Plummer.
Plus, “Most of the potters will have just fired their kilns and will be displaying their latest and greatest work, and pottery enthusiasts from all over the region come to see and buy,” Dalglish says.
Admission is free, and raffle tickets are available for purchase to win work donated by four artists: Kent McLaughlin, Jeannine Marchand, David Ross and Ken Sedberry. Raffle ticket proceeds will go to Safe Place, a nonprofit organization working for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence.
This year’s other participating artists include Stanley Andersen, William Baker, Pam Brewer, Cynthia Bringle, John Britt, Melisa Cadell, Claudia Dunaway, Susan Feagin, Terry Gess, Becky Gray, Shawn Ireland, Lisa Joerling, Nick Joerling, Courtney Martin, Teresa Pietsch, Michael Rutkowsky, Valerie Schnaufer, Jenny Lou Sherburne, Ron Slagle, Gay Smith, Liz Summerfield and Joy Tanner.
WHAT: Spruce Pine Potters Market, sprucepinepottersmarket.com
WHERE: Historic Cross Street Building, 31 Cross St., Commerce Center, Spruce Pine
WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 14 and 15, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.