One-of-a-Kind Local Potters Contribute Original Pieces for Annual Pottery Auction
BY HANNAH SHARPE
The potters of west Moore County are throwing clay in efforts to support the Robbins Volunteer Fire Department at the 19th Annual Pottery Auction for this year's Robbins Farmers Day.
The auction will take place after the Passin' Thru bluegrass band performance at the Railroad Stage Friday, August 6, starting at 7:30 p.m.
Ted Beane, an auctioneer from Seagrove, will call the shots as visitors bid for one-of-a-kind pottery pieces from the area's potters.
The auction began in 1991 as a fundraiser for the Robbins Volunteer Fire Department, but it has evolved into an annual commemoration of the department's service to the community and an opportunity to showcase work from the area's local potters. Around 30 potters contributed pieces for this year's auction.
Auction organizer Jarius Garner says the auction is always open to new contributions from potters in west Moore County and in Seagrove, located just over the county line in Randolph County. Local potters donate general pieces from their workshops and also create commemorative pieces that come with certificates of authenticity for the auction.
Original Owens Pottery always contributes to the auction a -commemorative 12- to 15-inch platter with the official Farmers Day logo on the plate.
Jane Demay, who hand-glazes a lot of pieces at Original Owens, designs the plate using the same logo found on the Farmers Day T-shirts each year.
Boyd Owens says that because his workshop contributes one unique piece made especially for the event, there is the opportunity to take home a piece of Farmers Day memorabilia that no one else has.
"That's what makes it really special," he says.
Owens says that contributing one piece also gives other local potters a chance to create their own unique pieces for the auction, which often showcase the area's diversity of styles.
"Everybody does their own little thing," he says.
Rock House Pottery always donates special pieces as gifts to the Farmers Day dignitaries each year. This year, dignitaries include local beauty queens like Charity Haskins, Miss Moore County 2010, and Sarah Daffron, Ms. North Carolina Senior America 2010. Last year, Congressman Howard Coble received one of the pieces as the guest of honor.
Carolyn Poole says that she likes to choose different pieces for Farmers Day to keep things interesting for the auction.
"It's never been the same each year," she says.
This year, Poole chose to donate bowls with an exterior brine salt glaze and hand-carved longleaf pine branches. The inside of the bowl features a green glaze.
Each piece has a stamp that says "55th Annual Robbins Farmers Day," along with the date.
Poole is happy to see her art help the greater community. Though she lives in the Westmoore fire district, she takes comfort knowing that the Robbins Fire Department will respond to emergencies, especially during the day, when Westmoore firefighters may be out on other calls.
"The Robbins Fire Department always comes," Poole says. "It's very nice to know that you're helping them do what they need to be doing - because they're all volunteers."
Proceeds from the auction allow the fire department to purchase better equipment that would otherwise be too expensive to purchase with the tax dollars that the department receives each year.
Garner says that the fire department needs more support than ever this year due to the economy. He added that the auction is a great way to support the department's efforts and enjoy local crafts.
The auction also showcases western Moore County's pottery heritage and the craft's thriving industry in the area.
Back in the early 1700s, Moore County's settlers used the area's unique clay deposits to make utilitarian pieces of pottery for themselves and their neighbors.
Today, the area boasts more than 100 potters turning and burning in workshops scattered along N.C. 705, drawing thousands of visitors each year down the 25-mile stretch of country road better known as the pottery highway.
Though Seagrove is the official pottery capital of North Carolina, the birthplace of N.C. pottery lies off Busbee Road less than 10 minutes outside of Robbins.
Jacques and Juliana Busbee, two entrepreneurs with an ardent love for art, founded Jugtown Pottery in 1921. The couple were credited for single-handedly keeping the local pottery industry alive during the advent of mason jars and mass-produced ceramics.
The Busbees were the first individuals to market the area's pottery as a functional art form. Juliana Busbee sold local pieces as art in her New York City tearoom.
Boyd Owens, like many local potters, partially has the Busbees to thank for the tradition of turning that has been passed down in his family for three centuries.
Owens' grandfather, J.H. -Owen, was the first potter to begin turning at Jugtown.
Though Jugtown put his pieces on the map, J.H. Owen had opened his own shop, which was located down the road, in 1910.
Boyd Owens' father, M.L. Owens, who added the "s" to his family's surname, was also a potter and took over his father's workshop in 1938.
Original Owens Pottery still operates on the original site of J.H. Owen's pottery and is the oldest operating pottery workshop in the state.
Carolyn Poole, of Rock House Pottery, has roots in the area that also run deep. Her father and great-grandfather were both potters, though they did not market their wares as extensively as other local pottery families during the burgeoning years of the N.C. pottery industry.
Poole remembers walking by her father's old workshop every day on her way to school. His workshop was located where Chris Luther now runs his shop on Busbee Road.
"I grew up there," she says. "Daddy's pottery was between Ben Owen Pottery and Westmoore School."
Though the pieces of her father did not inspire her own work, Carolyn and her husband, Ken, began Rock House Pottery 28 years ago.
Rock House Pottery is known for its brine salt exterior glaze and hand-glazed designs portraying pine branches, dogwood blooms and grapes - all state symbols of North Carolina.
"Once you've seen a piece of our pottery, you can always tell who did it," Poole says. "Ours is very distinctive."
Both pieces from Original Owens and Rock House potteries will be on display, along with the other donated pieces, at the auction.
With the wide variety of glazes, forms and designs coming out of local kilns these days, there's sure to be a piece of Robbins Farmers Day for everyone.
For more information about the pottery auction, or other Robbins Farmers Day events, go to www.robbinsfarmersday.com.
Contact Hannah Sharpe by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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