Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

During the last week of the Fellowship I had an appointment to visit Kelly Ladd, curator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s archaeological collections. This was exciting because I had already been to Williamsburg during the first week of my trip and I was so pleased that Eric Klingelhofer suggested that I return to the town and see another collection.

To quote the Foundation’s website “(the Foundation)….conducts original research on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century colonial archaeology and material culture,…..The Department also oversees the largest colonial-period archaeological collection in the United States, consisting of several million objects and fragments recovered during more than 60 years of excavation; extensive comparative historic-period faunal and archaeobotanical collections; and the Martin’s Hundred collection of early seventeenth-century material culture” It is the last sentence about Martin’s Hundred collection that is particularly relevant to the North Devon pottery finds.

Martin’s Hundred was one of the earliest 17th century plantations, located along the James River and was settled in 1619 by the English. Richard Carter bought the land in the early 1700s and built on this earlier site.

Kelly had pulled a lot of finds for me when I arrived and they were split into 2 categories – 18th century plainware and first quarter 17th century sgrafitto ware. The former, pottery sherds were excavated in Williamsburg itself and the latter were found at Carter Grove, Martin’s Hundred. We talked a lot about the plainware sherds and the colouring of them – I pointed out that it seemed unusual for the North Devon plainware to have grey in it, Kelly said it was a result of the oxidation that occurs during firing (due to the position of the vessel in the kiln and the firing temperature), which gives the red clay a striking grey ‘core’ running through the middle like a liquorice allsort.

The 17th century sgrafitto ware from Martin’s Hundred was beautiful and amazing to be able to hold something that old that came from North Devon – the finds were of the signature yellow colour glaze with both floral and wavy patterns. Interestingly Kelly also identified what the Foundation believes to be local copies of North Devon slipware in amongst the collection, some of which were more of an orange colour glaze.
Fascinating to think that in the 1600's, North Devon slipware was being copied and they liked the sgrafitto so much to create their own version.

Further reference can be made to the Martin’s Hundred site in a book of the same title written by eminent British archaeologist Ivor Noel Hume, which is a fascinating account of how he and his team excavated the site and their archaeological practices.

Photographs were taken by Dave Green and reproduced By permission of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Archaeological Collections.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The last week of the Fellowship

I had followed up on some contacts I had been given by archaeologists Eric Deetz and Eric Klingelhofer whilst they were at Fort Raleigh National Park in Manteo, so the last week was planned to be spent back in Virginia on the pottery trail again.

I went back to Williamsburg on Tuesday afternoon, via Norfolk Airport to drop off our friend Sally who was visiting from Tucson. I had an appointment with Kelly Ladd, curator at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s archaeological collections.

During the week I also visited the DeWitt Wallace Museum of Fine Arts; Bly Straube (again) and Merry Outlaw at Preservation Virginia in Jamestown; Karen Shriver at the Flowerdew Hundred Collection, as part of the University of Virginia at their study centre near Charlottesville; Contemporary ceramicist Michelle Erickson’s pottery at Period Designs in Yorktown; and The Department of Historic Resources state archaeology collection of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in Richmond.

Each of these appointments and visits were fascinating and definitely put Bideford and North Devon’s slipware and earthenware well and truly on the pottery trail map. They all deserve an individual post accompanied by photos and will be written up shortly.

Leaving Manteo

The last couple of days in Manteo were very weird and strange as we were involved in a car crash on October 23rd and so we had to miss our Bon Voyage Party and waste 2 days waiting for a replacement hire car as the last memory.

To coin a phrase we were ‘t-boned’ – I was driving and started to turn left at some traffic lights, turning on to a main road and as I pulled out someone ran straight into me driver’s side on as he had gone through a red light. Luckily myself, Dave (who was in the front passenger seat) and our friend Sally (visiting us from Tucson and was in the back) were all not too badly injured. Sally was actually hurt the most and had a ot of bruising and was hardly able to breathe immediately after the accident. Sally and I were whisked off very quickly to the hospital, in separate ambulances, for an MRI to check for any damage. I took a little longer to get out of the car as I had neck and head pain and so the paramedics didn’t want to take any chances and the damaged driver side doors were cut off by the ‘jaws of life’ courtesy of the fire department so I didn’t have to climb out over the passenger side!

All of this was expertly handled by the various departments – police, fire, hospital – the driver of the other vehicle was devastated and hung around until we were all on our way to the hospital. His insurance company will handle and pay for all the costs for the car and medical treatment.

The worst thing was that we missed our Bon Voyage party that had been organised for us by our friend from The Elizabethan Gardens, Carl Curnutte. We did put in a brief appearance on our way home and there were a few people still there, but it was very sad not to have everyone gathered to say goodbye to, eat and drink with, deliver a leaving speech and take final photos of the many great contacts and new friends made. There was a lot of food and rink left over and we were given some 'to go' boxes filled with goodies to eat when we got home. We finally made it home to recover and get over the shock of it all about 3 hours after the accident. Carl Curnutte was amazing - he came to the scene immediately and stayed with us at the hospital, driving us all home. Thank you Carl!

The Sunday and Monday were the last 2 days in Manteo and very frustrating as the rental car company had to be dealt with, we had to wait until 4pm on Monday for another vehicle and were going backwards and forwards to the rendezvous point only to have another delay (tho I did borrow a friend’s car on Monday) and also had to fit in packing and tidying and cleaning the house.

So an unusual and unplanned end to the Manteo side of the fellowship.

I left feeling that an awful lot had been put into place as very much a starting point for future projects, collaborations, journeys and relationships. A lot has been learnt about how a small town has worked together to plan and develop it, particularly with a view to creating an attractive place for both residents and visitors and to capitalise on the history there. I have drafted a 3-year plan for an Arts Exchange Programme, between Bideford Bay Creatives and Dare County Arts Council initially, with scope for other partners to become involved, including Bideford 500, Burton Art Gallery and Museum in Bideford and The Elizabethan Gardens, The Lost Colony and the Aquarium in Manteo. As the start of the 3-year plan, there is a confirmed 'postcard project' that will happen at the end of May / beginning of June 2011 with an exchange of artist made postcards in Bideford and Manteo and a simultaneous exhibition of them in both towns.

Also the town of Manteo is very excited about and keen to jointly celebrate Bideford's Heritage Day on July 2nd, being organised by Bideford 500's Committee and by me as their Project Development Worker. There will be a live web link up and celebration on the day so that both communities can see and hear each other.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Pottery trail unfurls again

Mike Z (Zee) and Doug Stover, National Parks Service staff at Fort Raleigh National Park told me that some archaeologists were coming to the Park to do a dig and that I should meet them and contact archaeologist Nick Lucketti, from the First Colony Foundation, to make arrangements to do so. I called Nick and though he isn't coming personally he told me that I need to make contact with them when they arrive. They were coming with students from Mercer University to do a dig near the Earthen Fort.

He also told me to look out for a book written by Ivor Noel Hulme about artefacts found at the 'Martin's Hundred' site near Williamsburg VA. Its in 2 volumes and volume 2 lists all the finds. I have since borrowed a paperback version about the site from a friend, Brian, and its proving to be a fascinating read so far, with North Devon pottery sherds being identified at the site – more on this later!

The 2 Erics – Klingelhofer and Deetz, eminent archaeologists, turned out to be a mine of information and proved to have some great contacts and were extremely generous with passing on names of people / organisations I should make contact with and places I should visit in the future to follow the North Devon Pottery trail. Alas some of these I won't get to visit on this trip as they include St Mary's in Maryland, Newfoundland, Maine, Ireland and Barbados.

Shame I can only do one Winston Churchill Fellowship in my lifetime!

Contacts they did give me that I can do on this trip are The De Witt Wallace Museum in Williamsburg, the Flowerdew Hundred Foundation at UVA in Charlottesville and the Department of Historic Resources in Richmond.

Nothing of any significance was found on the dig, apart from 2 postholes. I have finalised appointments to visit all these places and people this week, when I leave Manteo (the 26th) and head back up into Virginia. So a bit of an itinerary change, but an opportunity not to be missed.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Manteo Arts Scene

Since being here I have been making contact with the many art galleries and artists who are here in Manteo, some of whom came to our reception the day after we arrived and have kept in touch. In downtown there are numerous spaces to show and sell artwork – Dare County Arts Council have their new premises with 4 gallery spaces, all showing work by local based artists, (Manteo and the Outerbanks). The people who live here are in 3 categories depending on whether they were born here or have moved, or just visiting (natives, locals and tourists) akin to North Devon's locals, incomers and grockels. The artists are natives or locals.

There are also a few other galleries showing work by a mix of local artists, including Full Moon Gallery, run by Sharon Enoch which is an eclectic mix and includes wine, photography and Sharon's own pottery. A lot of the work in the galleries is very commercial and sells to the visiting tourists, so there are a lot of coastal scenes, birds, flowers, boats - very similar in subject matter to artwork for sale in North Devon. In fact there are more galleries that pop up once you start walking around dowtown, these also include Gallery 101, Endless Possibilities (based on recycled wares), Washed Ashore which has some 'funky' hand painted high stools and a kids rocking horse and pottery in the windows of the large downtown book store.

I met the owners and potters at 'Wanchese Pottery' in downtown – so called because they used to live in Wanchese and relocated to Manteo. I have yet to go back and watch Bonny at the wheel but have had a chat with Bob on the porch whilst he was playing with their kitten, who has adopted them. They have a small studio and shop by the Maritime Museum and make a variety of pots. Bob said they are down in stock due to a busy summer season and have different colours, the ones I have seen are different green glazes, from aqua to grass, and Bonny and Bob make mugs, plates, dishes and bowls that hold pebbles with wicks in to act as candles. Another potter is Nancy of 'Nancyware' and she has mainly her own stuff for sale in the shop.

Out of town on the main road is Silver Bonsai Gallery – so called because owners and jewellers Ben and Kat have their silver jewellery studio there and run the gallery, but they also sell Bonsai trees! Its an impressive studio at the back of the main gallery so you can see them at work. They also have an employee to help them. When we met they were very busy trying to finish some wedding rings for the upcoming 10/10/10 date, apparently a very popular day to get married. We had made email contact with Ben and Kat a few months ago and they were very keen to get to know the arts community in Bideford, so it was great to finally meet. A lot of the work is by local artists – as well as their own jointly made jewellery, also paintings, photography, textile hats, decorated light switch covers (a very American thing) and pottery.

Dave and I met Katy Caroline (she has a mural at Poor Richard;s cafe, above) at First Friday and she won the Beach Book Prize that we judged. She invited us to her art opening at a new venue called 'Art Space' which is at Southern Shores about 20 miles North of Manteo in the OuterBanks. It was good to see her work but also the space – Art Space is a gallery and studio to 3 artists. It's not a huge place but is packed with art on the walls and floors in 2 rooms and the studio areas are in amongst it all. It was fascinating to see that the artists were all working in a relatively small area but producing lots of work, they enjoy feeding off each other in a creative atmosphere, Katy is there every day to paint. I also met a painter who lives in the same area, Rick Nilson. I have seen his work for sale and he has only been painting the past few years. He won the Beach Book prize last year and was there at Katy's opening to support her.

At a party on Saturday night I met a potter, Cody Dough, and she was very excited about the twinning and future exchange plans wants to come over to Bideford as soon as she can. I have yet to see her work but will look out for it in the Arts Council galleries as she has some work there.

There are many other art galleries and spaces all along the Outer Banks, both to the North, up to Duck and down to Hatteras and Ocracoke to the South. In terms of twinning and exchange activity this area is too vast to get to know artists and galleries very well and we have decided that staying with Manteo based artists or artists who show their work in town will be an easier process to manage upon returning to Bideford and making an arts exchange programme happen in the future.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Arts Exchange

At the Artrageous Art Extravaganza art auction, Sunday October 3rd 2010, Laura Martier, executive director of Dare County Arts Council, gave her public endorsement of our plans to make real arts contacts with our American twin town:

“We have some guests from Bideford England, Sadie and Dave Green. They're our guests of honour tonight and what happens with our guests of honour? We will just make them work. They've been working for us all weekend, working for us on First Friday and working with us tonight. And Bideford is our twin town in England so we're working on some cultural arts exchanges with the artists in Bideford and with the artists in Dare County, so hopefully we'll all get a trip to England out of it; so let me know if you want to get involved in that one!” - Laura Martier

Dare County Arts Council are very enthusiastic about undertaking some arts activity with artists in Bideford. Dave and I have had 2 very positive and productive meetings now. Laura Martier and Fay Davis Edwards are keen to work with Bideford Bay Creatives on a postcard project as a way of introducing the arts community to each other and also for the local community in both Manteo and Bideford to learn a little about the other town, through the arts. We have had it confirmed now that we are to have an exhibition of artist-made cards from both Manteo and Bideford (these will be made by artists from both towns who will make a duplicate one and send it to the other town) at the Arts Council's gallery at the beginning of June 2011 and the opening of it will coincide with the First Friday event in June, on June 3rd. At the same time Bideford Bay Creatives will stage an exhibition of postcards from Manteo and Bideford artists at Appledore Visual Arts Festival in June 2011. Both towns will also be working with an elementary/primary school and so children will also make and exchange postcards and have them exhibited.

We made email contact in Bideford with Ben and Kathryn (above) at Silver Bonsai Gallery and we have seen them a few times in Manteo. They are both excited about the possibility of an exchange programme and are really keen to get something going, possibly with using a building they have on site that, although isn't ready right now, could possibly be a studio space for a visiting artist. That sounds great, I need to see the space but could be perfect! Ben and Kat are also the right kind of characters to make things happen and I am sure we will keep in touch.

With both of these ventures I need to put some things in writing and have a plan to work to. Laura at the arts council has suggested we have a 3-year plan with the vision for the bigger picture as well as stages that can be achieved along the way. The postcard project being the first stage. This is something I can work on before we leave.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

History and Mysteries

Last Thursday there was an expedition to the South of Roanoke Island, to Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands. Our new friend Tom offered to drive Dave and I down to both places in a day trip and I had told Tom that I needed to visit Scott Dawson at the History and Mysteries Museum in Buxton, near Hatteras, about 50 miles south of Manteo.

Warren who works on the Elizabeth 2 replica ship at the Island Festival Park had told me about Scott and suggested that I go and meet him as he has some artefacts that could be North Devon Pottery. I had called Scott a couple of days before to see when would be a good day to visit and told him about my fellowship and what I was studying, he said he had some North Devon pottery and would get some finds ready for me to see.

With great excitement we set off with Tom and got to Buxton around 11am. Scott was a great character and gushed forth with information as soon as we went inside. The Museum was at the back of the office and though quite small was bursting with printed information on the walls and images and had display cabinets full of finds from the immediate area. There were also copies of documents written by the English on their voyages of discovery and an Algonquian dictionary. Scott impressively talked us through the history of the English colonists arriving in 1584, 1585 and 1587. His main argument is that the 'Lost Colony' on Roanoke Island is in fact not of Roanoke and that, according to his study of primary sources of writings made at the time, the colonists actually arrived at Hatteras Island, where present day Buxton is. “This is really obvious from the description written as a place is described as being 20 miles long and surrounded by water to the North and South. If you look at a map it couldn't be anywhere else.”

Scott is a native of the area and his family can be traced back to the 1600's. He knows the area extremely well and has found sites for archaeological digs to take place - one of which was in November 2009 and was led by Dr Mark Horton (Bideford 500's patron) and his Bristol University archaeology students. Bideford's ex-Mayor Andy Powell was also there. Scott showed me some of the finds from that dig and some he had found himself. It was amazing to see, as quite clearly there are small pieces of North Devon Pottery – he showed me and explained how the sherds were found, literally laid on top of each other intermingled with sherds of native American pottery which he suggested proved that English and Native American people were co-existing together. What we don't know is whether the pottery was brought with the people who lived there or whether the pieces were traded and found their way to Buxton from another place. It was amazing to see these and hold them and bags of sherds were pulled out from a large black lidded box, all of which were excavated from Buxton at only about a foot and a half deep. What struck me is that as well as some sgrafitto-ware, with the tell-tale yellow creamy slip, there were also bagfulls of pieces of browny black glaze, exactly the same as I had seen by the bagful in Raleigh from the Brunswick Town dig. I was frustrated that I am not expert enough to identify thesherds but Dave took some good photos and we may be able to get some identification upon returning to Bideford.

It was a very fruitful visit and I plan to go back again before leaving Roanoke Island. This stuff was a real find and very exciting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Friday and the Beach Book

October 1st heralded in the First Friday event in downtown Manteo and my itinerary planning made sure I was there for the occasion. Its an American phenomenon, one I have witnessed in many towns and cities across the States. In essence its a community event, an excuse to come out into the streets and gallery spaces, to meet people, eat, drink and listen to live music. All for free.

Dare County Arts Council co-ordinate Manteo's First Friday programme and it runs annually on the first of the month from April to December. Its also a very family friendly event and there are activities for kids to keep both them and Mom and Dad happy. I learnt that the town of Manteo pay for the bands and on this occasion there were three different ones playing – 2 solo artistes in the vicinity of the Arts Council building (one on the front porch and one in the back yard) and a duo up the road in front of one of the cafes.

There were 2 arts openings at the arts council space – one to celebrate the 2010 Beach Book prize and another show called Ben2, by 2 artists called Ben! Dave and I were invited to judge this year's Beach Book prize, which was quite an honour and we did this in the morning as Gallery Director Fay had already hung the show the afternoon before. The Beach Book is a phone directory covering the Outer Banks area and each year a competition is run to select a winner whose artwork becomes the front cover. There are also 3 merits awarded, the first of which becomes an image for a calendar. It was quite a job to make a selection as there was a variety of styles and the task was difficult as we had to visualise the image on the front of the phone book, so it had to work in that context – without a frame, textureless and printed. In the end we selected a painting by Katy Caroline; it was a view of a beachside houses and garden from someone swinging on a hammock and so was at a jaunty angle. We had no knowledge of the history of this prize, or of the artists who submitted work but it turned out that Katy Caroline was 'people's choice' winner last year and is also an artist who is really beginning to make her mark locally and as someone put it is 'on a roll' She is also featured in this month's 'Our State' magazine – so unwittingly we made the right choice and a very popular winner!

First Friday was busy with folks at the Arts Council galleries and in their back yard, where the bar, music and kids stuff was. There was a lovely atmosphere with everyone happy and wandering about at their leisure. From the promotional posters I saw, it wasn't the best one as in the Summer months there are costumed interpreters, a climbing wall, more artists selling their wares on the streets – but the weather has been unkind recently as the September First Friday was called off due to the hurricane and this one didn't fare much better as the main street in town was flooded and made access difficult. In fact people were calling Laura in the afternoon to check it was all on and she was in a position to make the decision and say yes. But being there and taking part was great and informative and gave me some ideas for what Bideford could do if we were to start up a First Friday programme in 2011, as Bideford Bay Creatives have talked about doing during this year.

Artrageous Extravaganza

Dare County Arts Council organise an annual extravaganza called 'Artrageous' – I remember seeing this on their website earlier this year and finding it amazing that Bideford Bay Creatives had put on an event with the same name last December (a different kind of event though). I was looking forward to witnessing this and getting involved behind the scenes to understand how its all done and exactly what it entails. To say its just an art auction is an understatement. A team of about 20 volunteers, some of whom are on the Arts Council Board, work on this event year round and it culminates in an evening Art Auction to raise money for the Arts Council's Education programme. The most staggering thing other than the $20,000 they raise annually is the amount of support generated through the local community. It takes place over 2 days – the first day being a Childrens' Day with hands on art workshops where kids paint images of the area and these are used to promote the following year's event. The best ones are framed and auctioned off 1 year later – the Arts Council rather than children own the posters to encourage their parents to bid for them. They can sell for $60 to $100. One lady I spoke to was the proud and happy winner of her own daughter's poster. She had a poster in the auction in the 2 previous years also which both raised such high prices that Mom was out bid both times! There's also a kid's auction where stuff is donated by local businesses such as bikes and skateboards to be bidded for and won.

The art auction took place in the Ramada Inn at Kill Devil Hills, going North up the 'bypass' road from Manteo. Dave and I arrived in the morning at 10.30 and we both helped to put artwork on display for both the silent and live auctions. The silent auction had around a 100 pieces donated and each piece had to be identified and a bid sheet written out to go with it. All artwork had a starting price of $25 with bids going up in $10 increments. The highest bidder, identified by their bidder number, wins the art. This was open all night from 6pm and closed around 9pm. The live auction programme started with doors open at 5pm, food and drink available and whilst browsing the art on show and listening to live music from a band. At 6pm there were speeches from Kitty Dough (President of Dare County Arts Council) and Laura Martier, Executive Director. At the end of Laura's speech she announced that she is working with us on planning an arts exchange programme, and that was wonderful to have it endorsed in public. Throughout the auction itself, I was helping out on the check out desk – a bit of a procedure I had to learn - get the bidder's file, add up all the purchases, add 7.75% tax, total it up and take the payment. The 'runners' (including Dave) went off with the sheet or ticket to collect the artwork. It worked well as a system and went very smoothly, it was just a bit busy at times as a few people all wanted to check out at once.

It was very valuable to take part behind the scenes and during the event, its given me an insight into how its all planned and executed and this is something that we at Bideford Bay Creatives aspire to do. Hopefully now we can go ahead and plan an event like this, perhaps not as big in scale at least not right away, to help raise funds for the BBC.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Welcome Party

I had been planning and getting ready for the welcome reception in Manteo throughout the trip – before I left home I trawled through lots of our photos of Bideford, the arts community and artwork, the natural environment, Bideford 500 Heritage activities and hiking / landscape images. This would form a slidehow of pics for the Manteo folk to see what Bideford is like. I had also written some bullet points of what to talk about and had copied lots of information from various sources, including our own Experiencedevon website, as I know that the Americans love statistics and factual information and they always have theirs at their fingertips. I was also feeling a little daunted by the prospect of the whole thing – I didn't know what to expect, how formal or informal it would be or how many would be there.

I had been in touch with both local artist and restaurateur Sharon Enoch, and Laura Martier, Executive Director of Dare County Arts Council a few times before I left Bideford. Sharon had very kindly offered to organise a reception for my arrival and the Arts Council agreed to host us at their venue.

We arrived earlier in the afternoon to say hello and find out where the reception was. Dave and I were greeted very warmly by the staff, Laura Martier and Fay Davies (Gallery Director) and volunteers and I felt instantly at ease with the space – the Arts Council have just moved into the Old Courthouse and is a fabulous space, with a series of gallery rooms and a corridor downstairs and the Courtroom upstairs which will be used for classes and special events. I was also relieved to find there were no huge rooms for me to speak 'to' later on!

The reception was from 6-8pm and went very well, there were about 20 people there and we had wine, beer and some food which was wonderful and all catered by Sharon's Full Moon Restaurant. The lumpy crabcakes were to die for. I did a speech (without photos) and made sure that I covered why I was here, what I was researching and some key points about the arts connection and what I was hoping would happen in the future – mainly to set up some arts exchange activity and in the future an exchange programme between Bideford and Manteo. It was received very warmly and positively. Dave also talked a bit about his own work as a photographer, the networking artists networks for Bideford Bay Creatives (as the group were awarded a 'Go and See' bursary for this purpose) and the postcard project idea that Bideford Bay Creatives wish to do – exchanging handmade postcards between artists and exhibiting them at Appledore Visual Arts fest in 2011.

I met some great people, (lots of artists, the President of the Arts Council Board, the Mayor, someone who works on the replica Elizabeth 11 ship and is very knowledgeable about local history), and got a couple of leads to follow up for possible pottery finds, the main one being to go and talk to Scott Dawson at Buxton, on Hatteras Island, he has been involved in an archaeological dig there and has sherds. More on this later when I have been to see him! The Mayor and his wife, Jamie and Nadine Daniels were very eager to see plenty of us and make sure we get what we need from our trip. It was also a great opportunity to publicly thank not only Sharon and Laura but also Carl Curnutte from the Elizabethan Gardens for arranging our lovely accommodation at Fort Raleigh National Park.

The only regret is that Dave and I were so busy talking that we both forgot to take pictures of the evening or me doing my speech, but Fay Davies, Dare County Arts Council Gallery Director took photos - we haven't seen them yet but when we do we'll get a copy and I'll post them up.

Getting to Manteo

We've been in Manteo for 5 days now, and it hasn't stopped raining yet!This is a picture Dave took of the main street in downtown after a morning, very rare occurance, flood.

The rain started a few days ago in Wilson NC, we'd checked in early at a Jameson Inn with a coupon and were driving downtown towards our destination Golden Corral 'all you can eat buffet' (excellent food from Raleigh based national company), when the first rain for 6 weeks came. We had earlier read about the drought that the Eastern States were experiencing; record breaking high temperatures and the risk of Alabama's peanut crop being ruined. There had been early warnings on the TV and we'd heard rumblings of thunder, but nothing could have prepared us for the ferocity of the downpour. Dave managed to park less than 30 feet from the entrance yet still everything but our waterproof jackets were soaked.

Great weather for frogs, they were all out over the roads when we got back to the motel. Deep fried frogs legs is one of the many Southern delicacies on offer at the Golden Corral.

The journey to Manteo on the old Albemarle Highway 264 was a slow one with rain sometimes so torrential that Dave had to find somewhere to pull over, windscreen wipers just couldn't cope with the deluge. The rain let up a little as we spotted a sign post for Historic Bath – ' North Carolina's first town', established 1705. We pulled off the road and had a quick look around. I went into the visitor's centre and surprised the lady working in there as, although the door at the side was open, they were shut to the public that day! Never the less she was very helpful, gave me a brochure about the town and some information. It was originally settled by French Protestants but there were early English inhabitants, including John Lawson wrote the first history of Carolina. There was no known artefacts of old pottery found there, to her knowledge. I drove around whilst Dave did a movie from the car window of the quaint and rustic old wooden buildings alongside the water.

Leaving mainland USA for Roanoke Island on the Virginia Dare Memorial Bridge which must be at least 5 miles long is a sight to savour even on a dull, rainy day. The low, long, straight bridge suddenly peaks in the middle, to allow ships to pass underneath, and it's at this point that you realise where you are.

Our home, where we'll be based for 4 weeks, is a detached wooden 3 bed cabin, all on one level. It's at the North End of the Island in Fort Raleigh Historic National Park, surrounded on 3 sides with thick forest, the other having some National Parks service buildings. It's very quiet here in the evenings except for the continuous drone of insects and the rain, of course!
The rain has just stopped so here's a picture of the outside of the accommodation. I'll show you the inside when the sun comes out. Thanks to the Park's Service for such a good rate on this and to Carl Curnutte for getting us the deal.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Seagrove and the Potteries 2 – The Pughs, Westmoore Pottery and Ben Owen

The next place to visit was New Salem Pottery, home and studio of Hal and Eleanor Pugh in Randleman, just outside of Seagrove which was a real treat. There has been a tradition of pottery on the site from the 1766 which was started by the Dennis family from Ireland who travelled across New Jersey and Philadelphia. At some time they started making pottery. Thomas Dennis the first was listed as a shoe-maker. The question is why did they move here, did they know about the clay beds already or did they find the clay and then start making pots here?

As well as the Moravians there were also the Quakers in this area (English and Irish).

Hal was great and a charming host for a couple of hours – their set up is very rustic in a wooden cabin type building with a sales area at the front and a small studio at the back. Hal digs up clay from his own back yard - he dug some up for me and showed me how you can test to see if its a workable clay by wetting it, making it into a sausage shape and wrapping it round a finger to see if it cracks or not and so how pliable it is – if it cracks its not good enough to use. They make pots that are based on the old Moravian style and colours, painting on slip. As soon as we arrived Hal was very excited that we were from England and that I was researching pottery exported from North Devon – he showed me 3 trays of sherds that he has found on his property and wondered where they might be from. There were some sherds of decorative pieces and what interested Hal was the contoured rims of the pieces that had been shaped with a tool of some kind and were unusual because of that. Hal called these ridged- pots and wondered if doing something different with the ridged edges was English? The ridged edges are on the early pieces, he hasn't seen this before. There is also a square kiln on site which is a very unusual shape. Where does this shape come from? Quakers perhaps or something from Pennsylvania? Was it brought with them or did they develop the design here?

Hal and Eleanor have written 3 articles for the 2010 Ceramics in America and this publication is just about to come out – I was lucky enough to be treated to a preview of the articles on Hal's computer as he had copies. I will need to find out about square kilns and ridged pots when I get back to Bideford to see if either of these are of English, maybe even North Devonian descent?!

I also visited Ben Owen the Third at his family pottery, they have been potters since the 1700s also and Ben aged 12 decided he wanted to keep up the family tradition and learnt from his grandfather. There is a museum on site showcasing pieces of pottery from the family history. Ben also chatted to me whilst making pots at his wheel. It was a fascinating piece of history, though I didn't find any relationship to sgrafitto ware or North Devon pottery. Ben's contemporary pieces were very colourful – red and blue ceramics.

Last stop was Westmoore Pottery – I had been advised by a couple of sources to visit the Farrell family as they make reproduction sgrafitto ware. Erik Farrell was in the studio / shop when I arrived which was good fortune because he's a college student for most of his time studying archaeology; but he also decorates the sgraffito pots. It was interesting to see them and Erik's enthusiasm for the technique which he's still learning; it brought home to me just how skilled our Bideford potters are/were. Erik and I swapped book and reference information and he showed me a great book about the De Witt Wallace Collection in Williamsburg – I need to go back to see this on my way back to Richmond at the end of the trip.