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Due to the Corona virus, the Surface Design workshop has been postponed until this summer. The new date for it will be announced when the Art House re-opens.

JOIN ME AT A WORKSHOP

SURFACE DESIGN WORKSHOP FOR ARTISTS & CRAFTERS
I'll be teaching this one-day workshop on March 14, 2020 at the Art House! Learn to design your own unique papers and other materials for collage, card making, scrap booking, journal making etc. I supply all the materials. All you need to bring is a sack lunch and a beverage. Hours are 10-4; fee is $90 per person. Register online at acworthartsalliance.org/purchase-workshops/classes or call 678-543-5777. Act now! Seating is limited!

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Folk Pottery Find in the North Georgia Mountains

Tucked away in our state's beautiful mountains is a gem of a museum. For those interested in Southern arts and culture, the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia is a must-see. It showcases the work of North Georgia potters whose handcrafted wares allowed people to prepare, preserve and store foods and beverages in the era before refrigeration. Back then, pottery was essential for survival. 

After refrigerators became commonplace, many of their pieces began to be acquired by collectors.When the Smithsonian Institution focused its attention on the work and processes of White County potter Lanier Meaders, he became internationally known. The attention paid to Lanier and to other potters in the Meaders family by the Smithsonian raised their work and that of others in the region to folk art status.

The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in Sautee, near Helen.

My husband and I have an especially keen interest in this museum. He's related to the Meaders family and Lanier Meaders, who made utilitarian wares along with his renowned "face jugs." Lanier's face jugs feature grinning or grimacing characters, often with "teeth" made from porcelain clay. For Lanier, creating these grotesque pieces was simply a fun diversion from the more serious side of the pottery business. He was amused but puzzled when people began stopping at his small pottery operation in White County seeking to buy something so "ugly," as he described them.

When a documentary film on the Meaders family's work and processes was released by the Smithsonian in 1976 at a special event held at the Library of Congress, it cast the attention of the cultural world on this plain-spoken man and his family. It also transformed a humble household commodity, along with the quirky face jugs, into highly collectible art.

Lanier had clay in his blood, so to speak, but didn't take up the profession until he was in his 50's. His father Cheever was an accomplished potter with a well-established business supplying general stores, hardware stores, and gift shops. Several uncles and other family members were also skilled potters; Lanier's mother Arie took up pottery making at 60 and became widely known for her highly decorative designs. Lanier didn't have children, but members of his extended Meaders family produce pottery to this day, with multiple generations still shaping clay by hand.

Naturally, their works occupy much of the Folk Pottery Museum's display space, along with those of many other well known North Georgia pottery families including the Dorseys, the Hewells and the Fergusons. The museum's collection features an amazing number of pieces from the earliest periods right up to contemporary works. Each has its own story and provides a fascinating glimpse into the social, geological and economic aspects of our state's history.


The museum's Suzanne Reese-Johnston offers a warm welcome to visitors. Suzanne herself is an established potter with an extensive knowledge of the craft and its history. The painting behind her, by Clarkesville, Ga. artist Linda Anderson, depicts a typical early pottery operation in this mountain region.


A display of pitchers, bowls and crocks prior to glazing and firing. The photo is of Lanier Meaders working in his White County pottery shop. It was originally published in the book "Brothers in Clay: The Story of Georgia Folk Pottery" by John A. Burrison.(University of Georgia Press).

This kiln looks life sized here, but it's actually an exquisitely constructed model in a glass case.

Face jugs by Lanier Meaders. He marveled that anyone would find these whimsical creations, which he described as "ugly," appealing enough to buy. Demand for them was high: he produced and sold several thousand of them over the course of his career.
This massive specimen greets visitors in the reception area.
Natural wood and lots of glass give the museum a rustic yet comfortable atmosphere.

My hubby with a toothy friend
This trip was a wonderful experience. We learned a lot as we immersed ourselves in pottery appreciation. We also admired the beautiful views surrounding the museum of rolling green pastures and dazzling dogwoods at the peak of bloom. Secondary stops at Shapiro's Gallery and the Old Sautee Store offered fine handicrafts and unusual gift items. At Suzanne's suggestion we had lunch at a tiny restaurant adjacent to the Store. The vegetable panini sandwiches we ordered were absolutely delicious! There was more to see in Sautee Nacoochee, and we would have liked to tour the studios on the Folk Potters Trail as well, but we were running out of time. As we headed for home, we vowed to return there soon and are happily looking forward to it.

©2014 Lynn Edwards

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