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Kilning Time

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)



Article Published: Nov. 27, 2013 | Modified: Dec. 1, 2013
Kilning Time

Michael Calhoun of Traditions Pottery puts the finishing touches on a pot before placing it in a kiln to harden. Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery are hosting their annual Kiln Opening Celebration this Saturday in Blowing Rock.

Photo submitted



While Black Friday shoppers will be clamoring for the latest video game systems or the season’s top designer outfits at shopping malls across the region this weekend, a different fire is being stoked in Blowing Rock.

For only the second time this year, the wood-fired kiln at Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery will unload piping hot decorative pots and jugs to celebrate the holiday season and the talents of six generations of North Carolina potters.

Janet Calhoun, a sixth-generation potter, said long hours at the potter’s wheel and loading the wood fire is a family tradition that traces back to Seagrove in Randolph County.

Her mother, Lula Owens Bolick, passed the trade down to Calhoun when she was only 5 years old. The family relocated to Watauga County in the early 1970s and opened Bolick Pottery in Blowing Rock.

Calhoun shared her family’s cherished art with her husband, Michael Calhoun, who she described as “a quick learner.” With a growing passion within the Calhoun family, they opened Traditions Pottery to complement Janet’s parents’ business.

The kiln unloading is a chance to come together as a family and to celebrate an artful heritage that has, at times, proven to be a time-consuming but worthwhile labor, Calhoun said.

“The wood kiln is definitely more work but more enjoyable because of the uniqueness,” she said. “My grandfather would fire up his wood kiln two to three times a week. He spent more time cutting wood than he did making pots.”

The family began loading the kiln on Monday before lighting the fire on Thanksgiving. After given a day to cool off, the pots will be unloaded on Saturday, as customers anxiously wait behind a table that is roped off while pricing is determined, Calhoun said.

“When we unload it Saturday, it will also be the first time we’ve seen the pots (since finishing them on the wheel),” Calhoun said. “That’s the fun of it. People get to watch us crawl in there and take the pots out.”

Not only will the event feature a chance to purchase quality ceramics straight out of the kiln, but also mountain crafts, live music, traditional foods, such as barbecue and pinto beans with cornbread, and more.

While the family makes a quick assertion of the pricing, Calhoun said, her parents will regale customers with stories of the family business. “It really takes you back,” she said.

Although members of the Bolick family hold a special place in their hearts and minds for the traditional approach of finishing pots, the demands of a modern business have necessitated the time precision of an electric oven.

Wood-fired kilns are unique in that they cause what Calhoun calls a “reduction fire,” which means once the heat dies down and the oven is opened, a blast of cold air hits the pot to complete the process.

But for Calhoun, seeing the end product when the hardened pots are taken out of the oven is not her favorite part. The long hours at the potting wheel, carefully manipulating the clay with one’s bare hands is unmatched, she said.

“That’s just what I like about it,” Calhoun said. “I like to see people go home with a nice set of bowls or cups to use in the house. That’s where the satisfaction comes in, when it goes to a good home.”

The event will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30, at Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery, located at 4443 Bolick Road in Blowing Rock, three miles south of Blowing Rock on U.S. 321. Turn left at Blackberry Road and right on Bolick Road to follow the pottery studio signs.

For more information, visit http://www.traditionspottery.com, or call (828) 295-5099.

Additional Images

Michael Calhoun of Traditions Pottery puts the finishing touches on a pot before placing it in a kiln to harden. Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery are hosting their annual Kiln Opening Celebration this Saturday in Blowing Rock.
Photo submitted

Michael Calhoun's Santa jugs are a popular item at the Bolick and Traditions Pottery annual kiln opening celebration.
Photo submitted

Potter, musician and storyteller Glenn Bolick prepares to allow visitors to rush the table at a previous holiday kiln opening at Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery in Blowing Rock.
Photo by Jeff Eason

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