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Ben Owen III works on a tea pitcher.  Photo by Janet Imrick / Randolph Hub

Pottery festivals are back!

Janet Imrick
Randolph Hub


Pottery Festival Weekend will be back indoors for the weekend of November 19-20.


The 40th annual Seagrove Pottery Festival will be at Seagrove Elementary School, while the 15th annual Celebration of Seagrove Potters Fall Festival and Studio Tour will return to the Luck Comer Lail Center.


The Seagrove Pottery Festival went on a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Retired potter Phil Morgan took over its management after the death of founder Richard Gillson. 


Morgan has been part of every pottery festival at Seagrove Elementary School. They never had to cancel a festival before 2020.


Morgan invited back artisans who displayed pottery, woodwork, leatherwork and other craftsmanship at previous shows. Several had retired or had to close their shops.


He sees similarities between the pandemic and World War II. "The potters that didn't go fight in the war got them a job in the factories,” he says. “As recently as 1973 when I started, there were only six or seven potters here, including myself."


Some potters who stayed in business through the pandemic looked for other venues, including online stores.


"I'll never forget helping out one potter build a website," said potter Ben Owen III, one of the organizers for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters Fall Festival. "It's a lot of work to prep the pieces and photograph them, measure them, write about them."


Morgan and Owen say the opportunity to listen to the potters explain the process is what draws people to shop in the Seagrove area.


“Especially during COVID. In those times people wanted something to be uplifting,” Owen said. “Bringing something to your home restores your soul and makes a connection.”


“It's like buying a cake from a master chef or buying a cake made from a Pillsbury cake mix from Dollar General,” Morgan said.


The Seagrove Pottery Festival will have a notable change. “We’re not going to hold the auction,” Morgan said. “The auction tends to interfere with the meeting and the greeting of the potters. You start competing with them by selling their own work in front of them.”


Owen is on the board for the Celebration of Seagrove Potters Fall Festival. For health reasons, SAPA organized studio tours in 2020 and 2021. They are keeping that part of the experience in 2022. Twenty-seven potters will invite guests to tour their studios along Route 705.


SAPA worked with the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) to create a new map that leads visitors along Pottery Road.


“It's almost like going in different restaurants and learning something about a different cuisine,” Owen said.


Twenty pottery booths will be at the Luck Comer Lail Center’s lower level while the upper level undergoes renovations. 


Historic Lucks Cannery President Dean Lail said they’ve added amenities and a new art gallery. He’s preparing for the Celebration of Seagrove Pottery Fall Festival to potentially draw in the largest attendance since the renovations began.


“We've already been very active,” Lail said. “I think every weekend in November is booked, every weekend in October as well. There's been quite a few weddings, showers, class reunions, family reunions and birthday parties.”


Amber Scarlett, executive director of the Randolph County TDA and a member of the Seagrove Area Potters Association (SAPA) board, says the Seagrove area draws a lot of generational shopping, as people who went to Seagrove as children return with their own children.


“Going back to that spirit of that community, the creativity that comes out in so many different ways,” she says.


Scarlett expects the festivals to see attendance on par with before the pandemic. “Being able to support local, shop local, support small businesses … it really gets them in the holiday spirit.”