Raleigh Now Spotlight: N.C. Pottery Center fundraiser

The Art of the State
Leading local artists support pottery auction

by Liza Roberts
pot by Ben Owen III, photo courtesy Lindsey Lambert

Clay is “the most powerful metaphor we have for human life,” says noted botanical artist Ippy Patterson. “Life began with clay.” When she holds a piece of earthenware, she says, she feels “oneness with our planet.” Such reverence made it an easy decision for the Hillsborough artist to agree to chair the N.C. Pottery Center’s annual fundraising auction Sept. 9. Her belief in the Center and the role it plays in supporting art, artists, and the state as a whole makes her a proud ambassador: “This place is really important.”

Like many supporters of the Center – which occupies a beautiful Frank Harmon-designed building in Seagrove, and acts as a welcome center for the area and its potters – Patterson is also a huge fan of its board president and chief cheerleader, the revered potter Mark Hewitt. “He’s the powerhouse and the star.”

Hewitt would rather talk about the Pottery Center and its event than about himself. He hopes the auction will raise at least $70,000 to support the only statewide facility in the nation devoted to pottery. “We do a lot of good for the entire pottery community,” he says, including “potters, collectors, historians, and enthusiasts.”

Hewitt plans to donate a large pot to the auction, as he does every year, though he hadn’t chosen one by press time. There was still a firing on the schedule before the auction, and he wanted to make sure his best work was included.

“As an institution representing the state, I give generously, and very willingly,” he says. He says he is grateful to Leland Little auction house in Hillsborough for hosting the auction, and looking forward to a festive evening with gourmet food and wine, thanks to the “very hard work of the auction committee.” Top restaurants including Hillsborough’s Panciuto, Acme in Carrboro, and Juju and Watts Grocery of Durham will provide the menu.

But the main event, Hewitt says, will be the pots, sold in a silent and live auction. “I hope people in the Triangle will come out to support the art of the state.”