ASHEBORO (Oct. 30, 2019)
Beta Theta Rho, Randolph Community College’s Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society chapter, is hosting a Randolph County Pottery Roundtable on Friday, Nov. 8, from noon-1 p.m. in the R. Alton Cox Learning Resources Center Auditorium on the Asheboro Campus.
“We have a project we do every year and this year we chose our topic — how art influences us socially and economically,” RCC PTK President Tyler Bohlen said. “One of the things that’s most predominant here in Randolph County is the pottery in Seagrove.”
The students met with local potter Sid Luck and attended a kiln opening, learning not only how pottery is made, but why potters chose that craft.
“That was the first time any of us had ever seen pottery actually coming straight out of the kiln,” Bohlen said. “Mr. Luck does his pottery because he loves it — more than for the money, and that’s the case for a lot of potters. They do it because it’s tradition.”
The students also toured the North Carolina Pottery Center (NCPC) with Educational Program Manager Susan Greene, learning the history of pottery in the area.
“It was a lot more surprising than you think because in today’s world we have mass production of bowls and different utensils, but then you go and see someone do it and they’re building something from the ground up,” Bohlen said. “That was the one thing Mr. Luck really sent home with us was that pottery originally started on a kick wheel, and people would spend all day kicking that wheel just making pottery. Now, they have electronic wheels and so it’s a lot easier.”
After learning about the history and different styles of pottery, the PTK students decided to host a pottery roundtable. There, local potters will discuss their own work with pottery and how pottery has impacted Randolph County and North Carolina economically, culturally, socially, and historically.
“This project has really opened my eyes to how influential pottery is to Randolph County and the lives of many people here in North Carolina,” RCC PTK Secretary Dashanese Carpio-Ventura said. “Although I have lived here in North Carolina for almost all of my life, I have always seen traces and echoes of pottery, but haven’t really seen the full extent and influence it has had on many lives until now as I have seen firsthand how it touches the lives of many. The art of pottery has been interwoven in Randolph County’s culture, history, society, and economy, as well as the lives of many, creating an intricately complex tapestry, a beautiful piece of art on its own.”
The panelists are Greene; Meredith Heywood, Owner of Whynot Pottery, which was established in 1982; Luck, a fifth-generation potter, who began making pottery in 1957 at Luck’s Ware Pottery; Tammy O’Kelley, Chief Executive Officer of the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority; Hal Pugh, owner of New Salem Pottery, established in 1972.
Greene has been involved in the Seagrove Pottery community for 20 years, serving in a number of positions including employment at the Museum of North Carolina Traditional Pottery, owner of The Pottery Shoppe in Seagrove, board member of the Seagrove Area Potters Association (SAPA), and a board member of the North Carolina Pottery Center. She has been employed at the NCPC since 2011, and has helped to teach the TAPS program at the Center for more than 10 years. She also works at Donna Craven Pottery.
Heywood and her husband, Mark, moved to Whynot in 1976 to live on the family farm and raise small livestock, and ended up fully embracing the local pottery of the Seagrove area. Encouraged to learn how to make pottery as a living, the Heywoods opened Whynot Pottery in 1982, eventually adding Acacia Art Tile.
Beginning with Luck’s great-great-grandfather, William Luck, the family has looked to preserve the time-honored techniques of wheel-thrown pottery. By age 12, Sid Luck began turning for the J.B. Cole Pottery in Seagrove and continued turning off and on for the next 30 years. Luck's Ware opened on a part-time basis in 1987 at its current location and used both gas and electric kilns. Three years later, Luck left teaching to pursue his pottery dream full time. Along with several arts and education awards, he was the subject of two 1999 documentaries, “Crawdad Slip” and “Luck's Legacy,” by Jim Sharkey and was featured in the UNC-TV’s Folkways series on “The Potters of Seagrove” hosted by David Holt in 2001.
O’Kelley is the CEO of the RCTDA, which operates the Heart of North Carolina Visitors Bureau in Asheboro. The HONCVB serves as the official destination marketing organization for Randolph County, representing Archdale, Asheboro, Franklinville, Liberty, Ramseur, Randleman, Seagrove, Staley, and Trinity; and the I-73/74 State Visitor Centers in Seagrove, a partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. Born and raised in Asheboro, she holds professional memberships in Women in Travel & Tourism International, Destinations International, United States Travel Association, Southeast Tourism Society, and the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association.
Pugh was born and raised in New Salem in northern Randolph County. The property where he has resided since birth has been home to five potters dating from the third quarter of the 18th century, part of which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. His own piedmont red clay roots go back to the mid-18th century when his Quaker ancestors first settled in the area in 1756. He has been the owner of New Salem Pottery and producing pottery for 47 years and is the appointed Historic Landmark Commissioner for District 4 in northern Randolph County. Pugh has published articles on the early earthenware traditions in North Carolina and has worked as a consultant to archaeologists and other specialists concerning historic techniques and processes in the manufacture and validation of ceramics found at archaeological sites.
“This project has helped me understand how pottery contributes to Randolph County economically,” PTK Vice President Gabriela Vazquez said. “We brought this project together with hopes that our local potters and their work would be acknowledged and valued.”
The event is free and open to the public with light refreshments in the Armadillo Café following the roundtable. Attendees will also have a chance to speak to the panelists and discuss their pottery and other work with them.