A group of friends have come together to create a non-profit entity to operate a new pottery school in the Macon County Heritage Center at the old Cowee School. In the fund-raising stage of organization, The Cowee Pottery School will host classes for children and adults in addition to providing a co-op for fledgling potters to build their inventories.
The group of friends recently carried out the tradition started by Southwestern Community College’s pottery program by providing pottery opportunities for children (and a few adults) at the Macon County Fair. Toddlers through teenagers were able to get their hands muddy in clay provided by SCC and feel what it is like to “throw” pottery on a wheel.
According to Claire Suminski, the group’s special events coordinator, “We worked with over 300 children, talked with over 100 adults, and made over $200 in our three-day volunteer event. My daughter Molly and I had a fantastic time working with the kids. It got pretty hectic at times but we enjoyed every minute of it.
“One little tyke just broke my heart though. He was about 6 years old and came up as we were shutting down at 9 our last night. We just didn’t have time to let him work on the wheel. He had these huge elephant tears rolling down his cheeks. I knelt down to talk to him and he looked me in the eye and told me he had been waiting forever to do pottery. Yikes! It was so late and Molly and I were worn out. I bagged him a hunk of clay to take home and told him I would enter him in our raffle to win a free class. He got a big smile on his face through the tears and his mom thanked me over and over. What can I say? Kids love clay,” Claire related.
Doug Hubbs, part of the group of friends and a wellknown potter in the community, spent Thursday morning demonstrating throwing techniques during his turn at the wheel.
“I am so amazed at the encouragement we are receiving from the community. There are so many folks out there that want to see the new Heritage Center succeed and so many who have always wanted to learn pottery. It is my addiction, as I have told many people, and I encourage anyone who has given pottery a thought, to give it a try,” said Hubbs.
Hank Shuler, founder and former director of Southwestern Community College’s pottery program and treasurer for the group of friends said, “We’re very excited by the challenge of creating a pottery program in the Heritage Center. We look forward to a program to match or better any pottery program in the region. Funding will have to come from many sources, including local community support. To that end we are planning some bang-up, innovative fundraisers to involve the community and to tackle their pocket books.”
Maria Greene, new to the community and to pottery, has agreed to put her leadership skills to work by assuming the leadership role of the friends. Greene said, “We all want the same things: a successful Heritage Center and a fabulous pottery school for our area. The old Cowee School is a perfect home for both. With its proximity to Franklin (just 6 miles north) and its beautiful setting at the entrance to the Cowee Valley on the Bryson City Road, we’ve got the location issue knocked.”
Beth Moberg, a very active member of the Cowee Community and one of the Cowee Pottery School friends, is grateful for Betty Cabe and all her work bringing crafters to the Macon County Fair. “Betty works tirelessly to make sure everyone has what they need and to bring a variety of heritage activities to the fair. She makes such a difference in our community and in the success of the fair.”
Beth has worked very hard with her husband, Eric Moberg, the president of the Cowee Community Development Organization, assisting where they can with the Heritage Center. According to Beth, “We are still seeking good candidates for the center. Those interested in exploring opportunities should email Stacy Guffey at stacyjguffey@ yahoo.com.”
Lydia Patillo, a friend, potter, and retired teacher spent a full day helping out with the children. “I don’t consider myself good enough to teach pottery but I did enjoy working with the children. It’s hard to get away from them.”
Annie Burrell, a friend and potter, said, “As we all know, many endeavors in life take a village to be successful. Our pottery group is small and we are busy people. We’re looking for others who would like to help out in our endeavor. Being a potter is not a prerequisite. But an interest in helping to create a successful new school and Heritage Center are prerequisite. Wherever your talents and interests lie, I’m sure we can put you to work.”