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Behind the Wheel

Posted on 05/01/2019
Behind the Wheel
Travis Owens behind the wheel - photograph by TOWN Carolina

Seagrove, NC - Amid the pine forests and rolling farmland of rural Randolph County in North Carolina—a three-hour drive from Greenville—the tiny burg of Seagrove is synonymous with pottery. America’s largest community of working potters claims 300 permanent residents, roughly two-thirds of whom are potters. That count includes Seagrove’s mayor, David Fernandez, who runs the Seagrove Stoneware Inn & Pottery with his wife, Alexa.

You’ll know you’ve arrived in pottery central when you spy the clay pieces mounted on the brick columns flanking the “Welcome to Seagrove” sign. Strewn along Highway 705 and the dusty roads that branch off of it, more than 100 potters work within a 20-mile radius of Seagrove.

Form Follows Function

Although the pottery tradition in central North Carolina reaches back some 250 years to the first Native Americans, and later to the European farmers who were drawn by the area’s natural supply of heavy clay soil, it was the establishment of Jugtown Pottery in 1921 that put Seagrove on the map.

Jugtown’s founders, Jacques and Juliana Busbee, were Raleigh artists who first visited the town in search of orange-glazed pottery similar to a “dirt dish” that had caught Juliana’s eye at a pie competition she was judging in Lexington, North Carolina, in 1915. The couple discovered stoneware aplenty here but also found a waning pottery industry that had been hamstrung by Prohibition.

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