Event celebrates old mountain ways

Jun. 30, 2013 @ 08:06 AM

Glenn Bolick strode across his property Saturday with the air of a proud father, weaving between dozens of visitors as he went from here to there in the miniature village of craftsmen that sets up every year around Bolick Pottery and Traditions Pottery for Heritage Day.

And one of the big draws of the annual event always happens nearly first – the opening of Bolick’s wood-fired kiln. The pottery than then is carried out and placed on a table for sale is not outwardly that different than what you might normally find coming out of the electric kilns he generally uses – except for the color.

Glazes that would come out a nice robin’s egg blue from an electric kiln come out, for reasons Bolick can’t explain, in a color range from purple to blue with purple highlights.

“You can’t get the purple color in anything but a wood-fired kiln,” Bolick said. “We’re good, we just don’t know why we’re good.”

Bolick said the event is always popular, but it was good to see people in his shop for a change. The work to widen U.S. 321 going into Blowing Rock seems to discourage casual traffic, he said.

Dozens of cars lined little Bolick Road, in a valley along a stream that eventually becomes the Yadkin River, and people thronged in the pottery shops and among the crafts – walking sticks, handmade chairs, jewelry, lotions made from goat milk, and more.

The event started 22 years ago as just a family event, bringing together all the Bolick cousins in remembrance of their family heritage. But after the first couple of years, he decided to open it to the public and started advertising it.

The focus remains heritage, though, and that starts with the wood-fired kiln, which was the kind that potters in Seagrove and elsewhere most commonly used well into the 20th century, he said, before switching over to oil-fired, gas-fired and now electric kilns.

“We just fire the wood kiln to remember the old days,” he said.

In a sense, the wood-fired kiln encompasses elements of both his family heritage and that of his wife, Lula: “Lula’s a fifth-generation potter” from Seagrove’s Owens family, “and I’m a fifth-generation sawmiller,” Bolick said.

The heritage emphasis helps draw some people such as Roger and Carolyn Hager of Shelby, who had been here before to buy pottery but had not been to Heritage Day until Saturday.

“We like the old way of life,” Roger Hager said.

They also like the traditional food that was for sale – pinto beans and cornbread, with chow chow and onions. “Those pintos, they cooked all night,” Carolyn Hager said. “They didn’t come out of a can.”

Sally Harasz also had heritage on her mind. Though she now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., her great-grandfather lived in Lenoir, and the family owned the former Courtney Store in downtown Lenoir. She and her husband rent a place in the area every summer now, she said, and it becomes a mini family reunion.

She said she reveled in the live mountain music of Heritage Day, the storytellers and their “Jack Tales,” the traditional crafts – “just neat mountain things.”