at the preview for mark hewitt’s thrice yearly spring kiln opening, nearly two thousand pieces of pottery are on display. large planters sit along a walk leading up to a rustic barn which houses the rest. but nothing is yet for sale. the preview is just for looking, chatting with the potter (a charismatic briton), and sampling hors d’oeuvres.
the fun happens the morning after, when the aficionados line up in cars outside the pottery as early as 4am. jane and i arrive around 6, the sixth car in line, on 4 hours of sleep. we’re dozing when they open the parking lot (a field next to a pond) at 8am, and people of all ages, mostly older, start lining up. at 9am the sale officially begins. there is one rule. the line must walk toward the barn in the same order without running or cutting. strategy is simple. know what you want and grab it before someone else does. the closer you are to the front, the greater your chances of getting it.
we set everything we’ve collected outside the barn, and for two hours we alternate between guarding our “take” and perusing the pottery that remains. after some consternation, we set aside pots we don’t “need” so we can decide which we definitely want and which we plan to give as gifts (if we can bear to part with them).
salt-glazed north carolina pottery gets its look from the combination of ash blowing through the kiln and salt pored into the top of the kiln during the firing. the ash interacts chemically with the clay creating a range of speckled browns, tans, and khakis, while the salt gives the pieces a shiny veneer. small squares of blue glass pressed into the clay when it’s soft melt and drip down the sides leaving a blue streak that contrasts with the orangy browns. a few traditional glazes are used sparingly, such as a black manganese, but much of the final look depends on the unpredictable reaction of ash, salt, and clay inside the kiln.