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18th Annual WNC Pottery Festival Features 44 Master Potters

(Left) Barry Bernstein, artist; (Right) Judy Brater, artist

The 18th Annual WNC Pottery Festival returns to Jackson County on Saturday, November 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., in Bridge Park in downtown Sylva. Selected as one of the Southeast’s Top 20 Events and regarded annually as one of the premier pottery festivals in the mountains, it attracts several thousand pottery aficionados each year.

“What excites me most about the show is the caliber of work that continues to improve every year,” says Joe Frank McKee, a Jackson County potter who co-founded the event. “Sometimes a show can get complacent with the jury process, but ours continues to draw quality work.”

All potters are juried and compete for limited booth space. This year’s event will host a total of 44 exhibitors from 16 states. Five of those potters are new to the show and several others are returning after an extended absence. A large variety of styles and techniques will be showcased.

Tony Holman, from Plano, TX, has been a part of the show since the beginning. With a background in large ceramic sculpture and historic pottery, he now creates functional pieces for everyday use, including mugs, casserole dishes and even pet food bowls. His work features nature-inspired colors and shapes representing mountains or rivers created by dipping the pieces into glazes.

“Word gets around fast when a festival is put together by potters for potters, and it’s one of the things that makes this show great,” says Holman. “It’s worth it to come all the way to North Carolina for this community we’ve created around the WNC Pottery Festival, including both other potters and our customers.”

Joey Sheehan, from Marshall, will exhibit both functional and decorative ceramics inspired by classical shapes seen throughout history, but with a contemporary approach to surface treatment. Using a textural porcelain slip and a wide variety of sprayed glazes, he creates a sense of movement and excitement on the exterior of his pots.

“I have done this show for at least eight years and will continue to do so as long as I get juried in,” says Sheehan. “The attendance at the show is outstanding and the customers are always so happy and excited to be there.”

Throwing and firing demonstrations will take place throughout the festival, weather permitting. Six different potters will throw at 45-minute intervals. Demonstrations with raku and horse hair firings will happen all day.

Admission is $5 per person and includes a raffle ticket for multiple prize drawings at noon and 2:30 p.m. Children under 12 are admitted free. Please leave pets at home. Attendees are encouraged to buy tickets in advance and sign up on the festival website for 30-minute early admission. Learn more at

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