Monday, November 4, 2013

Quick Trip

Last Thursday morning, I loaded up the little motorhome and started my annual pilgrimage to the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival in Dillsboro N.C. My friends Mike and Karen Baum have done the show for years and claim it is the best clay show in the country. They should know. The last couple of years, I have gone down to help them with the heavy lifting and pottery wrapping. It is always a great show and we work 'til we can barely stand up.

One of the fun things about taking the camper is that I get to stop at the Raccoon Valley Campground on the way down. It is not what you would call a resort. It is a simple little place where the cable doesn't  work and the fees are reasonable but everyone is glad to see you. Oh yeah, I almost forgot Thursday night is the weekly bluegrass jam session. generally old men (and Carol) playing old songs. There are a lot of guys in their 70's and a couple in their 80's who play and sing like they have done it since before bluegrass was ever invented. They have spoiled me for other jams. there are about 15 players and when it is their turn they stand up drop it in gear (usually first gear ,"G" in banjospeak) and cut loose. There is no fooling around, head scratching, wondering what song or what key they are going to do. They go through more songs in a half hour than my Sunday night bunch does in 2 hours. Fast hard traditional bluegrass with the occasional Jimmie Rogers or Hank (the first) Williams and plenty of old time gospel. Even though I had left my singing voice home in the pocket of my other pants they acted like they were glad I came. Really, it is a rare treat to see and hear these guys and I try to get down there a couple of times a year if I can. Just show up, sit down, and hang on!

It rained all night Friday but we missed the biggest part of the wind that came through. The camper stayed snug and I got a good nights sleep. The Smokies were gorgeous. The trees were in full color and the day was just overcast enough that the sun didn't wash out the colors. I rolled into Dillsboro about noon, got some more coffee then went to find Mike and Karen. They had caravanned down from Lebanon Thursday evening with their pal Jim Reinert from Michigan and had hit traffic and weather both. I 'm glad I left when I did.

 The WNCPF is organized by Dillsboro potters Joe Frank McKee, Travis Berning, and Brant Barnes along with dozens of friends and volunteers. Loyal readers will recall that Joe Frank had a studio fire last spring. Many people in the pottery community responded with donations and labor and he reports that the new studio is up and almost ready for final inspection. He and wife Kelly send their thanks to everyone for their help and good wishes. This is the 9th year for the festival and it is really well done with an emphasis on quality and hospitality. It is a two day event with fun, games, and good natured competitions on Friday afternoon and a show on Saturday. Many of the potters do the show every year  and drive from places like New York, Minnesota, and Texas. This is a nice time for them to socialize instead of just blowing into town in the morning and blowing out and night. Competitions include throwing the tallest cylinder and widest bowls from 5lb of clay in 5 minutes, tallest 1lb and tallest 2lb cylinder blindfolded. Elise Delfield threw like she had been practicing all year and walked away with it. Here are pictures.

Sorry, I'm told it's Doug Hubbs

About 6:30 we were able to get on the street so we clipped headlights to our caps and started unloading and setting up the booth. Even with a big archtop tent, a lot of furniture and 62 (that's not a typo) cases of pots it went smoothly. Other friends had come down and helped quite a bit. The group from Cincinnati was even big enough that a couple of them helped Tony Holman set up next to us. There is a lot of community and camaraderie among potters. People bond through hard work and there was plenty of it to go around. After an hour, we were fairly well buttoned down and went for a bite and a beer.

I snuggled in about 10 pm and slept til I woke up at 3 to turn on the heat. The next thing I knew, it was 6 and Mike and Karen were already at the booth setting out pots. I got myself together and dived in about 15 minutes later.When we finally looked up and it was almost time for the floodgates to open at 10. I know Tracey asked me to take lots of pictures. There was no way I could even take one of us we were so busy. The crowd hit us and we were swamped all day long.  I wrapped pots and wrapped pots. Mike moved back and forth from helping wrap, to helping Karen charm the masses, to talking to wholesale clients. Many former buyers came and it was like a big family reunion all day. I've never seen anything like it. I think the extent of my leisure time was one quick run to the bathroom and back. The show closed at 4 but we kept selling for another half hour as we pulled boxes out and put props away, then the heavy lifting started. We worked hard and fast but it still took 3 hours to pack up. We were not last off the street but we were close. There is a post show pig pickin' dinner and we got there just at the end. I did get a chance to see Gay Smith for a few minutes and say hi to John Baumann. It was also very interesting to talk to Brant Barnes about the impact of the show on Jackson County. He said they expected sales to be over $150K and total impact of over $1 million by the time you fill every motel and  restaurant in 20 miles for the whole weekend. If you want pictures of sale day there will be some on the WNCPF web site soon. They had a camera club come and do a competition for best show pics and they plan to post them. So, sales were great, hospitality was great( big Sonic breakfast burritos not a cold box 'o donuts and they brought them to your booth), dinner after the show, and a chance to see old and new friends. That's probably not everything but I need a nap. Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Thanks for all the photos. Looks like great fun!

  2. So great to hear when shows treat the vendors like royalty! What a fantastic show, so wish I could have been there, maybe I need to put this on my calendar for next year. 62? That is just beyond my realm of reality!

  3. Yes Tracey. An extended Ford van literally crammed totally to the rafters, wall to wall and a couple between the seats plus a Craft Hut and a big set of shelves.Google the show and look up people like Mark Sudlark Doc Welty John Baumann and Tony Winchester. Joe Frank is no slouch either he was one of the first doing horsehair. There is not one booth that is not stunning and everyone is nice too.They are good enough they don't need to get pissy about everything. Not that we've ever seen that! Nov.1 next year. Friday is a great time to meet people, Saturday is crazy.

  4. Hi,
    The first picture is Doug Hubbs.

  5. Thanks Mike. I wasn't sure of the last name. I'll try to fix it.


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