Nearly 45 master potters from across 17 states gathered in downtown Dillsboro on Saturday for the seventh annual Western North Carolina Pottery Festival. The one-day event hosted an array of clay artists who travelled from as far away as Texas, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Nebraska to demonstrate a variety of techniques and who shared their knowledge through hands-on demonstrations, including throwing, wood-firing and horsehair firing, and Raku demonstrations.
Tents lined Front Street to display meticulous, hand-crafted pottery and to offer festival goers a wide range of wares to complement the already quaint village setting which includes shops, galleries, restaurants, inns and a railroad depot.
“In the seven years of the festival in Dillsboro we have grown from 25 local potters to 42 potters from 17 different states,” said one of the event founders, Brant Barnes. “This years attendance was near 3000 people with room for more. We have heard that the festival is the largest one day event in the county looking at total economic impact. Many of the motels are booked for next year already.”
Dozens of local artists also took advantage of the nationally renowned festival and sported their hand-crafted wares to festival goers. Students from ceramic courses at Southwestern Community College and Western Carolina University also had their work on display and used the festival to get pointers from the professionals.
According to WCU Ceramics Professor, Joan Byrd, five of the more advanced ceramic students were able to display their work at the festival. “We had two graduate students and three of the more advanced undergraduate students at the festival,” said Byrd. “The festival was so important to teach students what it is like to organize and promote their artwork. They gain invaluable experience from seeing potters from different parts of the country — it was just a great overall experience.”
Travis Berning and Joe Frank McKee of Tree House Pottery and Brant Barnes of Riverwood Pottery first established the WNC Pottery Festival in 2005 with the intention of allowing potters to interact with the public through demonstrations and sharing their general knowledge of clay. The festival has since evolved into an annual event that draws thousands of guests to downtown Dillsboro.
The festival also allowed pottery collectors the chance to meet their favorite artists and to have one-on-one conversations with them.
Each festival, a potter is showcased as the “featured potter” to demonstrate the exceptional talent and dedication to the craft shown throughout one’s career. Elmer Taylor was the featured potter this past Saturday and was on hand all day to meet with guests.
Taylor prides himself on creating functional pieces of artwork that can be as easily utilized everyday in the home, and admired as a piece of art. “I gear my pottery to satisfy the needs of kitchen and table, restricting myself to producing a limited range of forms that are continually refined,” Taylor explains. “Some refinements come from observations made in daily use of my pottery in my own home. Others come from repeatedly working with similar forms over a period of years. My main goal is not to make pots, but allow them to grow from the interaction between the qualities inherent in clay as a material and my skill as a craftsman.”
When Taylor is not teaching at the University of North Texas, he can be found at his shop, Taylormade Pottery in Kethchum, Idaho. To View Taylor’s work, visit www.taylormadepottery.com
“We have had the support of the Chamber of Commerce and the Jackson County Arts Council from the beginning. Their support and encouragement gave us the confidence to start this endevor and thier continued support helps maintain the festival now,” said Barnes. “I don’t know a better way to illustrate our success than by the success of our neighbors, Many of the businesses in the area have their best day of the year that day.”