Spotlight: Pots a plenty

courtesy Chad Brown

courtesy Chad Brown

by Mimi Montgomery

As the North Carolina Pottery Center revamps and expands its mission to promote the state’s long pottery tradition, it’s also gearing up for its annual gala and auction. “Going, Going, Gone to Pots!” on Sept. 24 at CAM Raleigh will benefit the Seagrove-based nonprofit and its work to preserve and celebrate pottery.

It’s a uniquely important cause, and one that’s close to home. The Old North State is rich in the natural clays, folk heritage, and family ties that contribute to a strong pottery network. “If North America has a ‘pottery state’ it must be North Carolina,” says Pennsylvania potter Jack Troy in his book Wood-Fired Stoneware and Porcelain. “There is probably no other state with such a highly developed pottery-consciousness.”

In fact, the center is the nation’s only statewide facility devoted solely to pottery. Its work includes the preservation of pieces by the earliest Native Americans and the promotion of the more than 1,000 potters working in the state today. The nonprofit also hosts rotating exhibits, artists-in-residence, lectures, summer camps, and after-school pottery workshops; it runs an internship program with East Carolina University ceramics students, and holds continuing education workshops through the ECU ceramics department, too.

The grounds boast an award-winning main building by architect Frank Harmon, which houses permanent and rotating exhibits and a gift shop. There are also living quarters for artists-in-residence, lecturers, and guests; an educational building with wheels and electric kilns; and two outdoor, wood-fired kilns.

It’s an impressive place, and it’s only getting better. In June, the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts organization focused on the preservation and promotion of American material culture, hosted a think-tank session at the center. Supporters including Chipstone director Jon Prown; Rob Hunter, editor of Chipstone’s Ceramics in America; Pottery Center executive director Lindsey Lambert; executive committee members; and members of the N.C. Arts Council met to evaluate how the center is adhering to its mission, and what it can do to improve its efforts.

In addition to planning new building renovations and expanded educational programs, the group decided to make the center’s exhibits more people-focused, tactile, and experiential. They’ve talked about creating an archeological digging space for children and offering short videos guests can view via iPads.

Also in the pipeline: Expanding the center’s reach not only within the North Carolina pottery community, but throughout the world as a whole. Next June, it will host an international conference, Woodfire NC at STARworks, which will welcome wood-firers from across the globe.

Upcoming center exhibitions include the shows The Busbee Legacy, about the Raleigh couple behind Jugtown Pottery, and Traditional Women Potters of North Carolina, both of which will be on display later this year.

Raleighties can celebrate all of this work, learn more about it, and help to fund it at the center’s 17th annual gala downtown this month. It’ll be an evening filled with food, drink, music, and – of course – tons of pottery. Stick around for the silent and live auctions, and you could bring home a piece of your own, too. 

6 – 9 p.m.; $125 each ($100 NPC members), or two tickets for $250 ($200 NPC members); CAM Raleigh, 409 W. Martin St.;