Before retiring in 2013, Neolia Cole, the eighty-six year old daughter of potter Arthur Ray Cole, was first to arrive and last to leave the Cole’s Pottery shop. She possesses the indomitable spirit that has kept a Cole in pottery-making for more than two centuries.
Once when asked how much pottery was produced by Cole’s Pottery in a year’s time, Neolia answered by saying instead how much income a year’s sales represented. Despite the fact that Cole’s Pottery charged very little for the wares made there, the annual sum collected in a year was considerable. Wielding a sly grin, Neolia unashamedly conceded, “And it’s just dirt!”
In a way, pottery is just dirt. But collectors and lovers of the art form know that much more than dirt contributed to the incomparable successes of North Carolina’s early twentieth-century art potteries. It’s a success story marked by adaptation, innovation, collaboration, and immensely hard work – a legacy that endures today.
Stephen Compton is an avid collector of mid-18th to mid-20th century North Carolina pottery. Steve has written numerous articles and books about it, including, North Carolina Pottery: Earthenware, Stoneware, and Fancyware (Collector Books, 2011), and Seagrove Potteries Through Time (Fonthill Media, 2013). Widely recognized for his expertise, he is frequently called upon to be a lecturer and exhibit curator. He once served as president of the North Carolina Pottery Center, a museum and educational center located in Seagrove, NC, and is a founding organizer of the North Carolina Pottery Collectors’ Guild. Steve resides with his wife in Raleigh, NC.
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Dimensions: 248 x 226 mm
Illustrations: 753 color photographs