Head to the hills for five fall traditional pottery shows and sales

When the first crisp fall-like morning sneaks in, just as Atlantans have abandoned all hope that the dog days of summer will ever end, the thoughts of many metro denizens turn to mountain day trips or weekend escapes.

Northeast Georgia being a hotbed for the folk pottery craft tradition dating to the early 1800s, the potters put on shows and sales and festivals as soon as the leaves start to turn. But it’s more than craftspeople being crafty about marketing to city folk looking for a good excuse to head to higher elevations.

As with most things involving this grass-roots craft — kept alive by experienced potters passing down knowledge to a younger family member or other apprentice — there’s also tradition involved.

Michael Crocker, a Lula potter who has works included in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection, said these fall sales go way back to when the pottery industry was growing up to serve the food-storage needs of foothills farmers.

“It stems back to the old days when the harvest came in from the fields and gardens in the fall,” Crocker said. “About the only thing anybody had to store and preserve their food in to survive the winter months was stone(ware) jars, crocks and jugs. … Some potters had big celebrations at this important time and called them ‘blast,’ a term used when finishing off a kiln by throwing lots of fatwood in the firebox to increase the heat to final temperature.”

Two pioneering Georgia pottery families — the Meaders of Mossy Creek in White County and the Hewells in Gillsville in Hall County — revived the tradition with separate big sales launched in the early 1990s. Since then, these “blasts” have evolved — now targeting collector types with items such as cute ceramic chickens and frightful face jugs, in addition to the classic farm wares — and spread like kudzu.

Here’s a look at five upcoming sales:

Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia’s Show and Sale

Marking its ninth anniversary, the Southeast’s only museum devoted exclusively to this folk tradition will host its seventh annual show and sale, featuring folk and studio potters from Georgia, Alabama and North and South Carolina, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sept. 5.

More than a dozen Georgia folk potters will be presented in the gymnasium of the adjoining Sautee Nacoochee Center, 4 miles southeast of Helen, while some 15 other potters will set up booths on the grounds.

A variety of 19th-century crafts will be demonstrated, and a blacksmith forge will be operating. A restored northeast Georgia slave cabin will be open, as will the Sautee Nacoochee Center’s history museum and two galleries of local art. Old-time mountain music will be played throughout the day, and barbecue will be available.

Starting Sept. 4, visitors also can check out the exhibit “Ancient Forms, Modern Minds: Contemporary Cherokee Ceramics.” Organized by the Asheville (N.C.) Museum of Art, it will remain on view through Nov. 1.

Admission will be waived Sept. 5 for all attractions. 283 Ga. 255 in Sautee Nacoochee, a quarter-mile north of the Ga. 17 junction. 706-878-3300, www.folkpotterymuseum.com.

Agri-Fest and Pottery Comes to Town

Cleveland’s new downtown Freedom Park hosts this dual event combining agriculture-related displays and folk pottery sales, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 26.

Members of the extended Meaders family and other area potters will show their wares. Alpacas, cows and goats will be on display, and produce, local honey and festival food will be for sale. Bluegrass, country and gospel music is on the bill. And there will be crafts, face-painting and other children’s diversions at this fest orchestrated by the White County Historical Society and the White County Chamber of Commerce.

706-865-3225, www.whitecountychamber.org.

Lula Fall Festival

Not only will there be more than 20 potters among the craftspeople showing at this second annual arts event set at the Train Depot amid low-key Lula’s revitalizing “downtown,” but folk artist Larry Ledford is designing a participatory mural saluting the pottery-making tradition there.

The 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 26 event on Main Street, across the railroad tracks from Veteran’s Park, also will offer children’s activities, entertainment and barbecue.

Free. 706-677-2016, www.facebook.com/lulafallfestival.

Crocker Kiln Opening

Michael Crocker will have approximately 175 fresh-from-the-kiln pieces available — including grape-cluster-decorated jars, large traditional farm vessels, face jugs and swirl ware — starting at 11 a.m. Oct. 3. And since the Lula potter holds only three sales a year and claims a faithful collector following who line up early outside Crocker Pottery, most (if not all) of the works should be gone in a couple of hours.

Crocker also will have 100 antique and contemporary pieces by Southeastern makers for sale.

Free. 6345 W. County Line Road, Lula. 770-869-3160. E-mail: folkpots@bellsouth.net.

Gillsville Pottery Day

Starting around sunup and continuing into the afternoon Oct. 3, some three dozen potters set up shop at two Gillsville sites: along the downtown row of storefronts on Ga. 52 and at the nearby Ferguson family pottery, 6468 Old Gillsville Road. 770-869-3262, www.facebook.com (search: Ferguson Family Pottery).

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