Tuesday, December 8, 2009



North Carolina pottery is pretty much an easy sell. North Carolina is home to the only continuing pottery tradition in the United States outside the Native American tradition of the Southwest.The pottery tradition dates back to the colonial days when early settlers quickly found that the clay-laden soil was an excellent resource for pottery wares. Probably the most notable pottery name associated with North Carolina is Seagrove....which is a location rather than the name of a potter. It's a small, somewhat rural area located south of Asheboro and Greensboro and it's home to several world renown potters such as Owens, Teague, Jugtown and Cole.

Just 100 miles due west of Seagrove is the Catawba Valley, the site of North Carolina’s other great pottery tradition. During the 18th century, numerous families, most of German origin, settled what are now Lincoln and Catawba Counties in the western Piedmont. The Catawba River encircles this region, and its South Fork, which meanders through the heart of both counties, has provided superb clays for the potters’ wheels.

The regional style of pottery in North Carolina began as a simple difference between cultures. In the mountains, the Cherokee and the Catawba Indians tribes, both native to North Carolina, have been making pottery distinctive to their own tribes for centuries. The Catawba, known as the river people, use a type of pit-firing and burnishing that makes their products shine, and they also imprinted animal designs on their work. The Cherokee used a paddle to imprint designs on their pottery.

In the Piedmont, a Moravian settler named Gottfried Aust (1722-88), from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, brought pottery to the Winston-Salem region in the latter half of the 18th century. In order to protect themselves from Indian attack, the Moravians began selling their wares in 1761, primarily to introduce trade with the Indians and also to attract the attention of other settlers. The Moravians were more creative than the British North Carolina folk potters. Whereas the North Carolina potters produced predominantly earthenware and later stoneware, the Moravians provided English cream ware, a form of earthenware, and introduced stoneware to the Salem region in 1774. British potters, who moved into North Carolina through the Shenandoah Valley, introduced stoneware to Randolph County.

British and European potters brought salt glazing to North Carolina in the 1700s. Salt was one of the region's earliest and most popular glazes. Other potters used a lead glaze to make earthenware watertight. As potters began shifting to stoneware production, the differences between British and German pottery became more pronounced, as did the regions they inhabited. By 1850, Randolph County was the center of salt-glazed stoneware, and Lincoln County primarily sold alkaline-glazed stoneware.

Whether Cherokee in western Carolina, Moravians in the Winston-Salem area or British settlers in the eastern Piedmont, original potters gathered their clay from the North Carolina soil. In addition, British folk potters ground their clay and turned it on a treadle wheel, while the Cherokee and Moravians used the clay directly from the ground or washed it before turning it on a kick wheel.

Do a completed item search on eBay and you will find a kaleidoscope of pottery pieces from North Carolina. Anything from antique utensils to ugly face jugs, to more modern forms in texture and glazes will show up. People from all over the U.S. buy NC pottery and if you are in a position to buy one piece or an entire collection for the right kind of money, do it! You will get your money back and more.

1 comment:

Shell Russell said...

I live in East Liverpool Ohio, which is billed as the pottery capitol of the world. Sadly, a lot of our great potteries are gone. However, we still have two local potteries still in production! They are: Homer Laughlin & Hall China.

Homer Laughlin is the home of the ever popular Fiesta Ware. Hall China is best known for its whimsical shapes, such as the nautical teapot and the donut jug.

I love, collect & sell both; as well as Your NC pottery. Each are unique & well worth mentioning Thank you for a very well written post & interesting content.