Artisans take center stage at Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival

Carol Ware, left, shows Lily Wilson some tips on making pottery during the Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Carol Ware, left, shows Lily Wilson some tips on making pottery during the Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival.

For the past 30 years, John Fulwood has been fascinated with the dynamic characteristics of clay and how a piece can be molded into something functional, while still allowing it to have life.

Fulwood’s work is displayed in galleries across the nation, and as the featured potter for this year’s Smoky Mountain Pottery Festival, Fulwood will share his creations with visitors and locals in Townsend.

The festival, held from 1 to 4 p.m. June 3 and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 4 at the Townsend Visitors Center, will include demonstrations as well as exhibits from 30 potters from around the region. The potters will demonstrate, exhibit and sell their craft. Visitors will have the opportunity to view hand building, Raku and horsehair firing demonstrations, and children can participate in educational, hands-on activities with Carol Ware. The festival also includes food booths and music.

“With our events, we try to provide visitors with a unique glimpse into the heritage and history of the region, while showcasing the Appalachian arts and crafts that many talented artisans are keeping alive today,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We are excited to kick-off this year’s event with a historic exhibition called ‘Tennessee Turned,’ which is comprised of more than 200 pots dating back 200 years or more, and then continuing the festivities with hands-on demonstrations and activities for the entire family.”

The exhibition will be showcased at the festival’s kick-off reception at the East Tennessee History Museum in Knoxville, and it will remain on display there until Oct. 30. The exhibition is based on the research of guest curator Carole Carpenter Wahler.

“At the festival, potters from around the region, many of whom are nationally and internationally known, will showcase their art and allow people to see first-hand the variety of types of pottery that are out there,” said Handly. “This year’s featured potter, John Fulwood, takes a unique twist with his pottery, and I think everyone will be interested in seeing his technique and work.”

Unlike many potters, Fulwood single fires his pottery to cone ten in reduction to allow for glaze combinations on green ware in ways that are not possible on bisque-fired pots. He uses the flames to create color variations to add life to the pots and help make each a one-of-a-kind piece. Fulwood’s studio, Kissimee River Pottery, is located in New Jersey.

“Finding something you’re passionate about and that you can make a living doing is rare,” said Fulwood. “I’m very lucky to have been able to work at something I love for the past 30 years. It is rewarding to know my customers are using their pots, but to be able to help ignite someone else’s passion for pottery, either through a class or purchase, is a very unique experience.”

Hugh Bailey, a potter with more than 50 years experience who makes unique animals and fanciful creatures, and Joe Frank McKee of Treehouse Pottery in Dillsboro, N.C., will also be at the festival to showcase their work. Carol Ware of Maryville will lead activities in the children’s tent, where young people and families can learn how to work with clay.

“The festival allows us to raise awareness for the arts. Since the festival is family-friendly, it allows children an opportunity to spark their interest in the arts with hands on activities. Adults can also learn more about techniques and visually see them demonstrated. It’s fun and educational, which is always a great combination,” said Handly.

The festival is made possible in part by a grant from Arts Build Communities, a program funded by the Tennessee General Assembly and administered in cooperation with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Arts and Culture Alliance of Greater Knoxville. The festival is hosted by the SMCVB and Blount County Chamber of Commerce, along with several regional business sponsors.

The event will be held at the Townsend Visitors Center, located at 7906 East Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend.

For more information about the Pottery Festival, call the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau at 1-800-525-6834 or (865) 448-6134 or visit or

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