While festivals featuring craft artists are numerous throughout the region, the Western North Carolina Pottery Festival holds a special place. Held in early November since 2005, this one-day event is a showcase for pottery only, attracting crowds and collectors, with a love or curiosity for pottery.
The Pottery Festival was established in 2005 by Travis Berning, Joe Frank McKee, and Brant Barnes, three experienced potters who were then working in the small community of Dillsboro. The show’s concept is for potters to interact with the public through demonstrations and sharing their knowledge of clay. The event also gives pottery collectors a chance to meet and take home pottery from their favorite artists. Roughly half the potters hail from the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, while the other half are from as far away as Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Florida, and Ohio.
Throughout the day, potters share their knowledge through hands-on demonstrations and conversations about technique and design. “There’s such a variety,” one founder said. “We’re not locked into one genre. We cover lots of firing temperatures and techniques. For example, we have a potter whose work looks like glass. Another potter’s work is fired with salt and soda to give a beautiful halo effect.”
The festival is large enough to provide variety, but small enough that visitors can see the entire event in a single day. The walkable towns of Sylva and nearby Dillsboro, the original home of the event, are filled with restaurants, local breweries, and friendly shops, framed by the autumn color of the Great Smoky Mountains.
November 6, 2021