There’s just something about firing up a kiln on an early
morning in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Maybe it’s the smoke the billows from the shed on a cool, dew-drenched morning or the piping hot clay creations that emerge from the oven.
For Lula Owens Bolick, a fifth generation potter from Seagrove, it takes her back to her father’s kiln and his father’s wood-stoked pottery oven that churned out glazed, uniquely colored and shaped vases and vessels that now eloquently decorate her shop, just south of Blowing Rock off U.S. 321 in a quiet corner of mountain wilderness.
Lula brought her husband, Glenn Bolick, into the family business 50 years ago. They passed down the kiln’s torch to their daughter, Janet, who introduced her husband, Mike Calhoun, to the craft.
The two families own separate, yet corresponding shops side-by-side.
Bolick Pottery stoked the talents and fires of Calhoun’s Traditions Pottery.
Together, they feed off one another, drawing a diverse customer base with seasonal events and traditional pottery that is rarely rivaled.
For both families, pottery is more than just a source of income, but also a way of life and self-reliance.
“I’m a fifth-generation saw-miller, and my wife is a fifth-generation potter,” Glenn Bolick said. “We’ve been married for 52 years, and not once did I have to punch a clock for someone else. For me, that’s what it’s all about — being self-employed.”
Lula Bolick said she can trace her pottery lineage back to the late 1800s, and the family still has multiple outlets to promote the craft.
While both shops have switched to electric kilns for everyday use, they periodically touch base with their roots and fire up the old wood-fire oven for special occasions, such as the case this weekend for the 23rd annual Heritage Day and Wood Kiln Opening on Saturday, June 28, at the shops, located 4443 Bolick Road, just off of Blackberry Road and accessible via U.S. 321.
The unloading of the wood oven is only the second event of its kind this year, with the other taking place around Thanksgiving.
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., guests will be treated to live music, anecdotes and, of course, the main event — the unloading of the kiln.
The wood-fire kiln was loaded Monday evening with 150 earthen pieces. They will remain in the oven until the unloading this weekend, when throngs of visitors await their chance to stampede to the selection table once the rope is dropped.
There is a special relationship between artist and oven, as patience and technique are rewarding virtues for the old way of doing things.
“With the wood kiln, you don’t always know what color you will get,” Lula Bolick said. “I enjoy getting the kiln out and seeing all those different colors.”
If any of the kiln’s elements are out of tune, issues concerning glazing and consistency can come into play, Janet Calhoun said.
“Each potter has his or her own shape and glazes,” she said. “Our colors and shapes are all very different. It’s all about finding your own way.”
For more information on Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery, visit http://www.traditionspottery.com.