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Master potter focus of new exhibit

Burlon Craig, Lincoln County’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.
“Really he made pottery from the time he was 14 until he died,” said Jeffery Pruett, guest curator for the Lincoln History Museum’s exhibit on Craig. “Literally, he made pottery just a couple of days before he died.”
Craig’s transition from functional to decorative pottery was what sustained his career and made him famous.
This transition is examined in the Lincoln History Museum’s newest exhibit, which opens tonight.
“Burlon Craig: From Utilitarian Craft to Decorative Art” will feature Craig’s work and the work of those he influenced. The multi-media exhibit also includes video and photography, which marks Craig’s transition.
From the late ’50s to the late ’70s, Craig was the only potter working in the Catawba Valley Tradition — 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.
“He carried the tradition alone,” said Pruett. “He was literally it.”
In the early ’80s, Craig’s popularity exploded.
“Everyone started knowing him,” said Pruett.
With this popularity came a legion of influenced potters, many who follow traditional techniques today.
Pruett credits Craig’s legend with his mastery of craft and Americans’ love of history.
“I think people like it because it does have a deep rooted history,” he said. “Also, people find the forms very beautiful, they find the forms very aesthetically pleasing.”
Lovers of Craig’s pottery will receive an extra treat tonight — 40 Burlon Craig miniatures from the ’80s will be on sale during the reception.
“They’re not so easy to get a hold of,” said Pruett.
All proceeds will be used for the Lincoln County Historical Association’s new museum project.

Want to go?
“Burlon Craig Pottery: From Utilitarian Craft to Decorative Art” 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 asso6377@bellsouth.net.
by Sarah Grano

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