Now in its ninth year, the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival attracted a crowd of art and craft lovers to Dillsboro last weekend, despite intermittent afternoon showers. From its humble beginning, the annual event, held Saturday, Nov. 2, has grown to feature demonstrations and exhibits by 49 talented potters and ceramic artists from North Carolina, and as far away as Texas, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Iowa and Indiana.
The show was originally established in 2005 by local Dillsboro potters Travis Berning and Joe Frank McKee of Tree House Pottery, along with Brant Barnes of Riverwood Pottery. The three artisans conceived of the festival as a venue for potters to interact with the public through demonstrations and informative presentations while sharing their work. And guests have the opportunity to purchase and take home pieces of work from their favorite potters.
The WNC Pottery Festival invites one featured master potter to the show each year. For 2013, the featured artist was Gertrude Graham Smith, better known as Gay Smith, a cum laude graduate of Harvard University who also studied ceramics and visual design at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth and at the University of Oregon. Smith lives and practices her craft, as well as teaching ceramics, in Bakersville, N.C. Her work is included in many permanent collections and fine art galleries such as the Mint Museum in Charlotte, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, and at the Yingge Ceramics Museum in Taiwan.
Local artists impressed visitors with their creations as well. Mark Karner of the Fiery Gizzard, located between Sylva and Waynesville, brought his brilliantly colored pots, plates and tea kettles to show. And Tree House Pottery’s Joe Frank McKee delighted visitors with his low-fired “horsehair” pottery designs and fumed pots with feather patterns.
The WNC Pottery Festival was sponsored by the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, the Jackson County Arts Council and the North Carolina Arts Council.