By Carolyn Schweitz
This year, the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival celebrates 15 years of bringing high-quality potters to the mountains. The festival will be held Saturday, November 2, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in a brand new location: Bridge Park in Sylva. “We hope to capture the same unique quality and ambiance we had in Dillsboro,” says Joe Frank McKee, one of the festival’s three coordinators. “We hated to leave Dillsboro, but with the impending bridge construction we were going to lose most of the parking for the pottery lovers who come see us every year.”
Potters from 16 different states will gather for a total of 44 exhibitors, both local and from other regions. “The caliber of artists makes for a memorable day in the small mountain town of Sylva,” says Jane Maurer, a long-time attendee of the festival. Attendees of the festival can watch live demonstrations of throwing and firing, while also browsing some of the country’s best handmade pieces. Anyone who wants to test their own hand at pottery can participate in the Clay Olympics. Visitors can also see the 2019 Featured Artist, Joy Tanner, a potter from Bakersville.
McKee says the event is a productive networking event for potters. Potters from all over the country apply for the show, but only about ten newcomers are selected. This year a record-breaking 16 new artisans were selected to join the festival of more than 40 potters. The potters that join always become quick friends. “It’s hard not to make new potter friends—we all have something in common and have the same goals,” says McKee. The festival is an excellent opportunity for local potters to interact with potters from different regions, to swap techniques and to appreciate one another’s work.
Admission to the festival is $5 and includes a raffle ticket. Entry for children under 12 is free and four-legged friends are welcome to attend the festival with a small fee. Those planning to attend are encouraged to buy tickets in advance online as the festival often sells out. Additionally, tickets purchased online ahead of time can allow attendees entrance to the festival up to 30 minutes earlier than tickets purchased on the day of the event.
“I think the show is one of the best in the country,” says McKee. “We are all proud we were able to create it right here in Jackson County.”