Janet Calhoun, daughter of Glenn and Lula Bolick, was born in the Seagrove area while her parents were working for her grandfather, M.L. Owens, a well-known potter and a recipient of the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award. Janet has always been interested in the family pottery business. “I grew up in a pottery shop,” she says. “They would go to work, and I would go with them. I always liked doing it.” Janet was “throwing” by the time she was five years old, and today she carries on the tradition as a sixth generation potter.
Janet spent lots of time in her grandfather’s pottery shop, where her parents worked while she was young. When she turned sixteen, Janet got more involved with the family business in order to earn gas money for her car. She always loved playing with clay, and by age twenty she was seriously interested in making pottery for a living. “I pretty much wanted to be in the clay. That was where I was happiest,” she says.
Janet married Mike Calhoun in 1986, and he also took an interest in throwing pots. He worked in sheet rock during the day, but went to his in-law’s shop every night after work to learn to throw pots. They worked with Janet’s parents for a few years, and built a shop on her family’s homeplace between Blowing Rock and Lenoir. “I worked other full-time jobs for about 15 years before I started doing this full time,” Janet says. “It took us some time before we got to where we wanted to be. We worked with mom and dad for a few years until we got our thing going. We knew we’d still do things together, but we wanted our own identity with the pottery.” In 1992 Janet and Mike opened a small gallery in Blowing Rock.
Janet prefers the traditional forms of pottery, such as those made by her ancestors. While Mike makes face jugs and larger pieces, Janet prefers smaller sizes. She enjoys making teapots and Rebecca pitchers for the challenge, but she is committed to make whatever sells to keep the business going. “This is our living,” says Janet, “and if that’s what sells, that’s what we’ll make. You can’t always come in here and play. You have to make what you need.” Janet is also very aware of the tradition she keeps alive. “If people don’t keep making Rebecca’s and candle sticks and those old shapes, they might fade away.”
Janet is available to show her work at festivals, craft fairs, and other events. She is also available to give demonstrations and workshops when she is not producing new pieces for her own galleries. Janet has also learned mandolin and plays in a family band with her husband, daughter, Lanna, and her parents, Glenn and Lula Bolick.