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Wooden kiln opens to tradition

Article Published: Nov. 24, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Wooden kiln opens to tradition

A High Country Thanksgiving tradition's heating up this weekend and, at its conclusion, you could have a nostalgic souvenir. It's Traditions Pottery's Thanksgiving Kiln Opening, and, according to potter Janet Calhoun, it serves two purposes: Celebrating the season and creating nostalgia.

"We do it every year," she said.

Thanksgiving Day, as grandmothers are firing those turkeys, Calhoun's family is firing the kiln. "That's our Thanksgiving tradition," she said.

Saturday, they'll unload the kiln. "It takes five or six of us," she said.

And its contents? They're always a surprise.

"We haven't seen it either," she said.

Once the pieces have been removed, the rope is dropped, and visitors make their selections. Come early, because there are only 150 pots.

"We have over 200 people watching it unload," Calhoun said.

For 16 years, it's been a Calhoun tradition. Generations ago, however, wood kilns were the status quo.

While the throwing process is the same ("It's all wheel thrown," she said), modern potters like the Calhouns typically use an electric kiln. And, while the wooden kilns create distinctive patterns and are capable of a unique purple color that's greyed by electric kilns, it's easy to see why potters generally prefer to plug it into a wall.

"With the wood kiln, you have to take a day to cut the wood, and you take a day to load it, and you take a day to fire it, and you take a day to unload it, so it's a four-day process," she said.

Plug it in?

"You load it and fire it and the next morning you take it out of the kiln," Calhoun said.

But there's just something about the traditional wooden way that makes its pots special ("You get beautiful, more iridescent colors," she said), and Calhoun knows pots. The sixth generation potter has been throwing pots since she was 5-years-old and comes from a line of potters that traces its roots from Bolick Pottery in Blowing Rock to Seagrove.

"I just kind of grew up in a pottery shop," she said. "I went to work with my parents and went there after school, just being around it all the time."

And, in 1987, she started Traditions Pottery at 4443 Bolick Road, Lenoir, just two miles below the Green Park Inn.
And now, Calhoun and a wheel are inseparable. The wooden kiln gets fired up twice a year, once the last Saturday in June for Heritage Day, and once Thanksgiving.

"It's a tradition," she said, and she hopes it will become your tradition, too.
After all, it's already got some members of the High Country fired up.

"We have a lot of people who come back every year," Calhoun said.

The opening happens at 10 a.m. this Saturday and includes pieces from both Bolick's and Traditions. Expect face jugs, pitchers, candlesticks, sculpted chickens and other traditional wares. Food will be served. Admission is free.
Check out for more information.

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