Burlon Craig, Lincoln Countyâ€™s most famous potter, started selling his wares as a teenager for 10 cents a gallon.
As the world around him changed and people turned to plastic rather than pottery for functional use, Craig altered his focus, but continued the work he loved.
â€œReally he made pottery from the time he was 14 until he died,â€ said Jeffery Pruett, guest curator for the Lincoln History Museumâ€™s exhibit on Craig. â€œLiterally, he made pottery just a couple of days before he died.â€
Craigâ€™s transition from functional to decorative pottery was what sustained his career and made him famous.
This transition is examined in the Lincoln History Museumâ€™s newest exhibit, which opens tonight.
â€œBurlon Craig: From Utilitarian Craft to Decorative Artâ€ will feature Craigâ€™s work and the work of those he influenced. The multi-media exhibit also includes video and photography, which marks Craigâ€™s transition.
From the late â€™50s to the late â€™70s, Craig was the only potter working in the Catawba Valley Tradition â€” digging and processing his own clay, turning on a treadle wheel, making his own alkaline glazes and burning ware in his traditional wood fired ground hog kiln.
â€œHe carried the tradition alone,â€ said Pruett. â€œHe was literally it.â€
In the early â€™80s, Craigâ€™s popularity exploded.
â€œEveryone started knowing him,â€ said Pruett.
With this popularity came a legion of influenced potters, many who follow traditional techniques today.
Pruett credits Craigâ€™s legend with his mastery of craft and Americansâ€™ love of history.
â€œI think people like it because it does have a deep rooted history,â€ he said. â€œAlso, people find the forms very beautiful, they find the forms very aesthetically pleasing.â€
Lovers of Craigâ€™s pottery will receive an extra treat tonight â€” 40 Burlon Craig miniatures from the â€™80s will be on sale during the reception.
â€œTheyâ€™re not so easy to get a hold of,â€ said Pruett.
All proceeds will be used for the Lincoln County Historical Associationâ€™s new museum project.
Want to go?
â€œBurlon Craig Pottery: From Utilitarian Craft to Decorative Artâ€ will run from Nov. 21 through Feb. 24 at the Lincoln County History Museum in Lincolnton. An opening reception will be held tonight, Nov. 18 from 7 until 9 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting Jason Harpe at (704) 748-9090 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Sarah Grano