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33rd Annual North Carolina Potters Conference: The Similarities in Our Differences

Posted on 01/22/2020

Seagrove, NC - The North Carolina Potters Conference is the Southeast’s premier ceramics conference. Through its history, the conference has featured some of the best ceramics artists from around the world who demonstrate their techniques and share presentations about their work and professional practices. The conference was created by Dwight Holland, Mark Hewitt, and Dorothy Auman in partnership with the Randolph Arts Guild in 1987 and to this day continues to be a major convergence and contributor in education and networking for North Carolina ceramics.

Beginning with the 2020 conference, the North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove, NC, will assume organizational leadership and host the conference. Since its inception 32 years ago, the Randolph Arts Guild has built and maintained a great reputation as the host of this internationally acclaimed conference. The Randolph Arts Guild established a firm foundation on which to continue to grow the event, and, with their blessing, the NC Pottery Center will continue to grow and improve the conference for many years to come.  

The new home of the North Carolina Potters Conference could not be more fitting than in Seagrove, NC - known as the “Pottery Capital of the United States”. Although the birthplace of the conference was in Asheboro, only 20 miles away, a packed conference program can make it difficult to take advantage of the proximity to such a rich living pottery epicenter like Seagrove. The majority of this years’ conference programming will be held at the Historic Luck’s Cannery located along the renowned NC Pottery Highway 705, just 0.7 miles from the conference host and organizer, the NC Pottery Center. As one can imagine, the change in venue has inspired us to begin the conference with a day of guided tours around Seagrove showcasing some of the area’s thriving examples of ceramic history and industry. The tour hosts will change from year to year in order to celebrate the quantity and quality of the Seagrove ceramic experience, and bring exciting variation to the conference schedule annually. Tour hosts during the first day of the 2020 conference include Takuro Shibata of STARworks Ceramic Supply, Pamela Owens and Travis Owens of Jugtown Pottery, Ben Owen III of Ben Owen Pottery, and historian Steve Compton will give a tour of the NC Pottery Center. We have also partnered with Art Alliance of Greensboro and they will have instructors Patrick Rowe and Leanne Pizio demonstrating at the conference site during check-in on Thursday. These special additions of guided tours and demonstrations to Thursday, March 5th of the conference will kick off the conference with an exciting amount of creative and historical activity. 

The theme of this year’s conference, The Similarities in Our Differences, is inspired by the transition of the event from one organization to another. As organizers, makers, or manufacturers, we all use a variety of skills and techniques to achieve a similar goal… to create the best pieces of art we can. Every aspect of the 2020 NC Potters Conference is designed to explore the similarities and differences, and sometimes the similarities in our differences that we all share in executing our craft. 

After an initial day of guided tours, the conference will continue in a similar format as past years centering around two-days of demonstrating artists in addition to multiple speakers. Three demonstrators will work side-by-side, encouraging questions, and conversing with the audience and each other covering topics surrounding their unique techniques and perspectives on their ceramic careers. Interspersed in the program are speakers that will help to inform on a diversity of contemporary business practices including manufacturing, advertising, and marketing. Unlike other conferences, you do not have to pick and choose which workshops to attend. All the demonstrations and presentations are scheduled for the entire group. Potters at any skill level will come away with new ideas and inspiration to improve their work and professional practices. Even non-potters have found the weekend a worthwhile introduction into the world of ceramics.

Our demonstrators this year are Bede Clarke, Dan Finnegan, and Lisa Naples. Bede Clarke has been a Professor of Art at Missouri University in Columbia since 1992. Clarke will demonstrate a range of his utilitarian wares and share his wood firing methods. Lisa Naples works and teaches from her barn in Doylestown, PA. Naples will share her hand-painted sculptural vessels that portray highly detailed illustrations of animals that convey a narrative. Dan Finnegan received his initial training in clay at Winchcombe Pottery in Gloucestershire, England, with Ray Finch. Finnegan now works in a studio deep in the woods next to his two chambers wood-fired kiln outside of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Prior to the demonstrations, each artist will give a brief presentation about their background, methods, and works made throughout their career. 

The featured speakers during the conference will be Alex Matisse and Connie Matissee of East Fork Pottery, Ron Philbeck, and Thomas Schmidt. The East Fork Pottery team creates a unique brand of ceramic wares out of ever-growing factory space in Asheville, NC; they just opened another manufacturing space in Atlanta, GA. Alex and Connie will both give separate talks about the evolution of the business and marketing direction of the East Fork model. Ron Philbeck owns and operates a pottery in Shelby, NC. He will give a talk about creating social media promotion and online sales for the traditional individual handmade pottery scale. Thomas Schmidt is an associate professor of Interdisciplinary 3D Studio and Ceramics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Schmidt’s talk will delve into his integration of digital fabrication and slip casting to create ceramic production lines.

For more information about all of our presenting artists, full conference schedule, registration, accommodations, and much more can be found on our conference website. www.NCPottersConference.org

https://www.ncpottersconference.org/

The North Carolina Pottery Center is located at 233 East Avenue in Seagrove, NC.

Exhibitions and events are made possible through the generosity of our membership, the Windgate Charitable Foundation, the John W. & Anna H. Hanes Foundation, the Mary and Elliott Wood Foundation. This project was also supported, in part, by N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Thank you!

The mission of the North Carolina Pottery Center is Sharing North Carolina’s Clay Stories, Past, and Present! 

The Center is located at 233 East Avenue in Seagrove, NC. The hours of operation are Tue-Sat 10 am - 4 pm. For more information, please call 336.873.8430, visit ncpotterycenter.org, or find us on Facebook.

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