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The Folk Potters Of North Carolina

2889 words - 12 pages

Imagine you are watching someone spin a mysterious brown block on this odd contraption which they operate with their foot. Their hands are constantly touching it, shaping and forming it into something that you can’t quite tell what it is. They turn all of their concentration to make every single detail so precise. This is the beauty of pottery making. Some people find it hard to believe that a clump of sticky, dry, squishy, chalky dirt can be transformed into a beautiful vase, bowl or plate. Something ugly and old can be turned into something valuable and colorful. Pottery making is an art that requires skill, patience and consistency. Not only does it occur all over the world, but there are new ideas being made every day to improve the art.
The history of pottery dates back to 5000 BC where the Sumerians or the Chinese invented the potter’s wheel. The potter’s wheel is a mechanism that allows potters to shape clay so that it is symmetrical. (8) Although this was the first form of pottery discovered by historians, the first sight of pottery in North America was the Native Americans. Different tribes made different types of pottery. They used pottery to store food, medicine, herbs and water. Native American pottery was and is still colorful. (6) When new colonies were formed in America pottery became a part of their new life. There wasn’t much they could do without pottery. To be a colonial potter you had to find a good piece of land that offers many natural resources to live off of, usually land to supply the potter with clay and wood. (4) American potters did not make pottery for their own satisfaction; they made pottery to get the needs of the common man.
Potters would make things such as storage jars, jugs, pitchers, bowls, cups, mugs, porringers, flower pots, beer kegs and milk pans. Each piece was made by a different potter. (4) In a single day a potter might make more than 500 of the same pieces. (6) As a potter would make something to sell, they would put his/her signature or initial typically on the bottom of the jug. If not on the bottom of the jug it would be inside of handles, inside the piece, or on the side of the body.(2) Pieces of pottery, also called “wares”, were traded between colonial people for resources such as butter, eggs, corn, meat, whiskey, cloths, herbs and scrap metal. (4) Pottery was used to trade for many different things. In 1861 the Civil War started and along with it came the need for pottery. As Robert E. Lee’s troops traveled, they needed food. There was no refrigeration back then so there as a constant demand for large, durable container to contain food that had been salted or pickled and shipped to Lee’s troops without going bad. When the Civil War ended in 1865 the demand for pottery didn’t disappear. As families in the North and mostly the South were trying to get back on their feet from the effects of the war, they needed a product that they could sell to earn money so they could support their family and...

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