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June 2011

Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, NC, Offers Largest Exhibition of NC Pottery in Eastern North Carolina

The Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Formed, Fired and Finished: North Carolina Art Pottery, on view through May 12, 2012.

The exhibition features a collection of more than 90 pottery pieces on loan from Dr. Everett James and Dr. Nancy Farmer, of Chapel Hill, NC. Showcasing unusual works by talented potters, it represents the first and largest showing of North Carolina pottery in Eastern North Carolina.

“This is a rare opportunity to see unique works by some of North Carolina’s preeminent potters in one location,” said Museum of the Albemarle Administrator Ed Merrell.

North Carolina’s art pottery tradition traces its lineage to the 1760s when immigrant potters, mostly from England and Germany, settled their families in Central North Carolina, known today as the Seagrove area. Living on remote farms built on rich deposits of clay, the families made pottery for sale and trade. This traditional ceramic ware was used up to the early 20th century when a movement known as Arts and Crafts was sweeping the country. With an eye toward traditional craftsmanship and simple forms, the potters adopted the movement and began converting their traditional pottery forms into stylized shapes with a new palette of glazes.

“They converted jugs, butter churns and storage jars into decorative ceramics and called the new forms “fancy ware.” Today, this style is known as North Carolina Art Pottery. This transition helped keep North Carolina’s oldest continuous industry alive and thriving. The exhibit is a visual testament to their determination to remain in control of their (own) destinies.”

The collection of James and Farmer is based on this time period and includes pieces from the eastern Piedmont families; Cravens, Coles, Owen (Owens), Aumans, and Teagues, from the Catawba Valley region; Hiltons, List, Propst, Ritchie, Reinhardt, and Craig, well-known Seagrove and Catawba Valley potters who embraced the “fancy ware” tradition. A few pieces of Catawba and Cherokee Indian will be displayed to examine the influences of tourist and the change to fancy ware. These regions made the most art pottery and are connected by the Hilton family, who worked and transferred ideas from Seagrove to Catawba.

Both James and Farmer, who are married, are avid collectors with familial ties to North Carolina. James, a renowned radiology physician grew up in Robersonville, NC, and the nearby town of Jamesville is named for his family. He has instructed at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, University College London and Vanderbilt. Farmer, from Norwood, NC, in Stanley County, has been an educator at all levels - counselor, teacher, principal and associate superintendent.

Their appreciation for art began when they lived and taught for several years in Europe. There, they enjoyed visiting galleries and started collecting English watercolors. When they returned to North Carolina, their attention turned to American art, folk art and art pottery, amassing an impressive collection. In 1993, James established St. James Place, a restored historic, primitive Baptist church in his hometown, where he exhibits all types of folk art, including more than 400 examples of North Carolina pottery.

The Museum of the Albemarle promotes the understanding of history and material culture primarily of the Albemarle Region in which it is located and secondarily for the state of North Carolina for the educational benefit of all people. Through regional collections, historical interpretation, and professional assistance, the museum encourages citizens and visitors to explore and understand the past; to reflect on their own lives and their place in history; and to preserve regional history for future generations.

For further information check our NC Institutional gallery listings, call the Museum at 252/335-0637 or visit (

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