A tumultuous divorce and the retirement of the attorney I worked for happened within a week of each other. Left at loose ends I was able to choose whether to move or stay in Clarksville, Tennessee. Where did I want to live? What would I do? Knowing pottery was (and continues to be) my passion in life I decided to travel to Seagrove, North Carolina. I’d been to Seagrove once before on a short vacation and had met and been entranced by Waymon Cole. Waymon had passed away but I knew there were over eighty potteries in Seagrove. Was Seagrove a potter’s paradise or a place to train under another potter? Deciding to take a week and go to Seagrove, I intended to try to apprentice myself at one of the potteries there.
The drive was delightful and I was upbeat as I registered at a motel in Asheboro and found a Seagrove pottery map in their lobby. The next morning I drove to the original Cole Pottery and found it was closed and for sale. My next stop was Turn Burn Pottery where I was told they couldn’t use help but they knew the Phil Morgan at his Pottery had been looking for someone to “turn pots”.
Just before noon that first day I pulled into the Phil Morgan Pottery parking lot and met Julia Morgan. Their pottery was family run with their main line of pottery being functional dinnerware. They also had a beautiful line of crystalline glazed ware that Phil exclusively threw, glazed and fired.
After thirty minutes of pottery talk and agreeing on a wage they hired me and said I could live in their lake house.
My first day in Seagrove I’d accomplished all I’d come to do and had six days to spare! My agreement with the Morgans was that I would return in six weeks and begin working for them five days a week. With my future plans in sight I stayed three nights at the motel so I could spend two more days visiting as many potteries as possible. The next two days I visited thirty or more potteries. I’d go to each one and amble about their showroom, talk to the potter if possible and just marveled at the difference from one pottery to the next.
After my Seagrove visit I drove back to Clarksville to arrange my move to Seagrove. It was an exciting, frantic time. There were lots of details, packing and saying goodbye to friends. I decided to move all my belongings including all my pottery equipment which I would store in a temporary storage unit in Asheboro.
With a light heart I returned to Seagrove a few days before I was to start “turning” for the Morgans. I had two cats, Cass and Puppy, to settle into the lake house and I wanted to have a couple days to relax and make them comfortable in their new home.
The work I did for the Morgans transformed my throwing. Monday through Friday I would arrive at the pottery by
9:00 a.m. and Julia would give me a list of forms to throw. Her list would be something like “30 pitchers, 40 medium vegetable bowls, 30 vases, 50 plates”. She’d smile and say “just turn as many as you can between now and 5”.
The wheel I used was in the back pottery work room but I was facing the showroom and had a huge glass window in front of me. Customers could watch me throw but we couldn’t talk. Balls of clay the size of the piece I was to throw were lined up on a shelf to my left. I’d throw a form and take it off the wheel and put it on a shelf to my right. For six months I worked at the Phil Morgan Pottery, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. I threw many hundreds of pots. I never made clay, trimmed a piece, glazed a piece or fired a kiln. Berry bowls, plates, lamp bases, mugs, bowls, platters and many other forms were “turned” day in and day out. I enjoyed working side by side with Julia. I also enjoyed the customers watching me through the window and I’d smile and be content throwing as Julia would go out and explain to customers what I was making.
I learned quite a bit from working in Seagrove. Julia was constant about having the pottery shop open for business at 9 a.m. and we never closed before 5 p.m. If there was a customer in the shop at 5 p.m. she didn’t rush them and we’d stay open and make them feel welcome until they were ready to leave. There was no closing for vacation or to run errands because Julia never wanted a potential customer to come to the pottery during open hours and find us closed.
There are many reasons I chose not to remain in Seagrove and open a pottery. I did not find a cohesiveness in the pottery community of Seagrove and so after six months I left Phil Morgan Pottery for
Old Gap Pottery where I worked for three months learning more clay techniques. My future pottery would be Cabin Clayworks in the Adirondacks.