Visual Arts

North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival at French Broad River Park

Lidded Fumed Vase. Joe Frank McKee, artist. Photo by Nick Breedlove

By Emma Castleberry

The first annual North Carolina Ceramic Arts Festival will take place on Saturday, September 23, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at French Broad River Park. More than 20 ceramic artists from across North Carolina and the East coast will have their work on display and for sale.

The festival was organized by a team of five artists who met while working together in a community studio space in the River Arts District: Jenay Martin, Sarah Thurmond, Clive Earnhart, Hannah McGehee and Tori Motyl. The team hopes that the festival will become an annual tradition for both ceramic artists and visitors.

“The medium of clay is ubiquitous in our daily lives, from the dishes we eat off of every day to the art with which we decorate our homes and gardens,” says Motyl, the festival’s head coordinator and vendor coordinator. “This show is an opportunity for ceramic artists to show off this diversity and celebrate the long history of clay in our lives.”

Master potter Joe Frank McKee will be the festival’s featured artist. McKee, who has an MFA degree from the University of North Texas, is known for his fumed pots, which feature unique surface patterns that are created by exposing the pot to varying degrees of oxidation. He teaches clay art classes as a part-time instructor at Southwestern Community College.

“I create a wide range of work, from functional and fumed pots to traditional Raku and Horsehair pottery,” McKee says. “My decorative lines are more creative and artistic and my functional pots keep me in touch with my everyday customers.”

Admission to the festival is free. Doc Brown’s BBQ, Sunshine Sammies and Purple People Feeder will have food trucks at the festival and buskers will be providing entertainment for tips. There will be ceramic art available for every budget, from small gift items starting at $10 up to large statement pieces and sculptures for $2,000 or more.

“There will be a variety of techniques used by the potters as well as a broad range of aesthetics,” says Michael Hamlin, a participating ceramic artist. “This festival will provide an opportunity for the community to experience the broad range of ceramics that exists today and learn more about the processes of working potters.”

French Broad River Park is located at 580 Riverview Drive in Asheville. On-site parking will be available as well as auxiliary parking serviced by a free shuttle. For more information, visit

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