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Traveling The NC Pottery Highway: Your Guide to Handmade Pottery Earthenware Treasures

Are you a fan of handmade pottery, salt-glazed pottery, and earthenware? You are in for a treat today as I take you on an earthenware clay treasure hunt. The North Carolina Pottery Highway is primarily located in the Handmade Pottery Capital of the United States, Seagove, NC. It is a scenic route that winds through the heart of the state’s pottery region. Along the way, you’ll find dozens of potteries, each with its own unique style and selection of handmade pottery treasures.

With over 80 potteries along the way and many detours off the beaten path, it can be confusing and complicated to navigate. Visiting all the amazing and talented potters in one day is impossible. I have designed the guide to help you plan your trip and avoid some of the pitfalls. We’ll tell you where to go, what you’ll see, and a behind-the-scenes look at a local pottery.

I just picked up the Country Living Magazines – special edition – Flea Market Finds. Inside the magazine article is filled with information about the popularity of collecting Earthenware, or, Pottery. It focuses primarily on salt glaze pottery, which is a favorite of mine. I’ll be taking you behind the scenes of a wood-fired kiln and the new salt-glazed earthenware that comes from this ancient tradition.

Whether you’re a seasoned pottery collector or just starting out, Seagrove, NC, has something for everyone. So, let’s get started!

North Carolina Pottery Highway sign - the place to find handmade pottery, earthenware, and salt glaze pottery in Seagrove,NC

Thrifting with the Gals – A Pottery Detour

Today’s post is part of our monthly series, Thrifting with the Gals. I decided to take a little pottery detour to share some of my vintage pottery treasures and shares tips for traveling to this quaint little area in the heart of North Carolina.

If you are new to our series, we are friends who share a love for vintage and thrifted decorating.

We come together monthly to share our thrift store shopping adventures and tips on how to decorate with your treasures.

Be sure to check out their inspiring thrifting adventures at the end of this post.

Why is Seagrove, NC, the Handmade Pottery Capital of the US?

The first potters in the Seagrove area were immigrants from England and Germany who settled in the area before the Revolutionary War.

As a result, the area centered around Seagrove has been a center for pottery making for more than 300 years. It is considered the longest continual history of pottery making in the United States. Several families have been creating pottery in this clay-rich area for nine generations.

The settlers were fortunate to find the area rich in earthenware clay and began producing utilitarian wares. They focused on such items as crocks, jugs, and urns which were necessary for survival.

Today, with over 80 Potteries and new generations of talented artisans, handmade pottery earthenware has emerged as an art form. Most of items are very durable, and items such as coffee mugs, dinner plates, and beverage pitchers are almost too beautiful to use. LOL

Welcome to Seagrove The Pottery Capital of the USA.  Home to over 80 potteries and handcrafted earthenware artisans.

Why Collect Pottery?

Vintage pottery and salt-glazed earthenware are having a resurgence in popularity. You will see that vintage pieces signed by the artisan make excellent collector items. In addition, prices on unique pieces can be staggering.

However, collecting handmade pottery is once again on trend for home decor and collecting. Pottery pieces can be both decorative and functional.  When an object is handmade by a craftsman, you will cherish the craftsmanship that went into its design and will treasure it above mass-produced purchases.

If you are looking for vintage or antique pottery, look for pieces made by some of the premier potteries in the Seagrove area. Here are a few names to look for.

  • Jugtown Pottery was established in 1921 by Jacques and Juliana Busbee. 
  • Cole Pottery, Raphard (1799–1862). He and his sons produced utilitarian stoneware. More recent are JB Cole, Waymon Cole, and his sister, Nell Cole Graves
  • Ben Owens Pottery – Owen’s Pottery was founded by John B. Owens in 1885.
  • Seagrove Pottery – Walter and Dot Auman, who opened Seagrove Pottery in 1953 and started the Seagrove Potters Museum in 1969.
  • Family names such as McNeill, Teague, Luck, Owen, and Cole are noted as beginning the pottery industry in Seagrove.
Waymon Cole signed earthenware pottery jug from Cole's Pottery Kiln opening in 1984.
One of my first pieces of pottery was a signed Jug by Waymon Cole at a Cole Pottery Kiln Opening.

My Pottery Collections

Because I live only miles from this artisan village, I’ve been collecting pottery since the 1970’s.

Memories of Coles Pottery

My first memories are rising early and standing in line for the kiln opening of Cole Pottery. Talk about traveling off the off-the-beaten-path. Even a country girl like myself wondered where in the world I was going.

Upon doing research, I found this article “The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters” on mintwiki

“One of the most enduring and prolific of North Carolina’s potting dynasties is the Cole family, whose members have been potting in central North Carolina—Randolph, Moore, Lee, and Montgomery Counties—for over two hundred years. Six generations of Coles, a total of 18 individuals, are represented in The Mint Museum’s permanent collection. More than 60 highlights of their wares are included in this installation.”

I have a couple of pieces signed by Waymon Cole and Nell Cole Graves from my early morning adventures years ago.

Shortly after I was married, I visited Seagrove Pottery, owned by Walter and Dot Auman. I fell in love with the colors and textures of the earthenware pieces.

They had these gorgeous blue dishes, and I was smitten. Although I had just received a complete set of China for wedding gifts, I’d happily trade it for these dishes. Luckily, my mother and aunt were with me, and over these next few birthdays and Christmases, I had a good collection.

They are true earthenware and not dishwasher safe, but I love to use them on my table settings and am still smitten after 43 years.

Where To Start on The NC Pottery Highway?

With so many potteries, it’s impossible to visit them all. Therefore, it’s essential to determine what you are interested in seeing.

I recommend you stop at one of the many shops and galleries located in Seagove first.

Seagrove Creations Pottery Gallery in the North Carolina Pottery Captial of the USA.

There, you can see examples of many of the potteries scattered throughout the region. They also have brochures with the pottery listings and locations.

Here are the options for exploring local pottery styles.

How To Determine Which Potteries To Visit

First, be sure to grab a brochure and then walk around the shops to determine your favorite pottery styles. They have excellent representation, and you can purchase pieces from their shops without traveling any further.

However, I encourage you to pick out several places to visit. You will be amazed at the countryside as your travel through, and each of the potteries is so unique and well worth the trip.

Use the brochure to mark your favorite artisans and start down the North Carolina Pottery Highway.

Note: Don’t expect to find all the potteries on the highway. You definitely need to venture off on many sideroads to get the full experience.

Signs along the North Carolina Pottery Highway with over 80 operating potteries.

Salt-Glazed Pottery

The rustic texture of salt-glazed pottery captured my attention many years ago. Luckily I was set up beside David Garner at Turn and Burn Pottery from Seagrove, NC at a craft fair.

At the time, I only could afford a little brown jug.

Salt Glaze Pottery Jug.  My first salt glazed piece.

However, a few years later, I commissioned David to make a pottery sink for our new home. It’s a wood-fired salt glaze sink that traveled with us from that home to the farmhouse.

Visiting Matthew Kelly Pottery – A look behind the scenes.

I discovered Matthew Kelly’s Pottery display at Creations Pottery Gallery and immediately marked it as the first pottery on my brochure. Because of my love for salt-glazed pottery, I knew I wanted to see more of his creations.

Matthew Kelly Pottery behind the scenes tour of unglazed pottery.

Matthew has a sizeable wood-fired kiln and works with salt glaze. His shop is located at his home and is only slightly off the Pottery Highway.

Matthew Kelly Pottery behind the scenes tour of his shop and pottery. Specializing in wood fired Salt Glazed Pottery.

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon with few vistors and we were fortunate he had the time to show us around.

He has been throwing pottery since he was 14 years old and feels lucky to have determined his calling at such a young age.

He has built a huge wood fire kiln that will hold 650 pieces and requires collecting a lot of wood to prepare for the firing.

Matthew Kelly Pottery behind the scenes tour of wood fire kiln that holds 650 pottery pieces.

I would have loved to take several pieces home with me, including this large pot below.

I opted for a salt-glazed pitcher on this trip. The larger pieces are on my wish list. Hint, hint.

I have several earthenware pitchers, and it’s a perfect addition to my collection.

Collection of earthenware and salt glazed pitchers and other handmade pottery pieces in my collection

You can see more about Matthew’s process on his YouTube channel here.

New Pottery and Earthenware along the NC Pottery Highway

There are many new faces making their mark along the North Carolina Highway. The area draws many artisans who decide to stay and open shop selling their earthenware creations.

We stopped in at The Triangle Studio and met one of the talented owners.

We learned that Kate had moved to the Seagove area from New Jersey and helped to renovate an old gas station with her partner Erin. You can’t miss the shop which sits prominently on the NC Pottery Highway and is filled with amazing designs.

The studio displays their lovely wares as well as other talented artisans.

The Triangle Studio pottery pieces located in the North Carolina Pottery Capital of the USA

In today’s post, it’s impossible to mention all the potteries located in Seagrove. This is not to diminish the many other talented potters in the area. I have several other locations marked on my map that I hope to visit on my next adventure.

There are as many diverse styles represented as there are potteries. In addition to the salt glazed pottery options, you will see many creative art sculptures, crystalline glazes, and face jugs along the North Carolina Pottery Highway. I encourage you to visit and explore to determine the style that works best for your home and collections.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where can you stay when visiting the North Carolina Pottery Highway?

Seagrove is a sleepy little town with limited recommendations. However, Asheboro is only 15-20 minutes away, and there are several motels to choose from. Some of the best-rated are Fairfield Inn, Hampton Inn, and Holiday Inn Express.

If you are looking for a quaint getaway, consider the Duck Smith House Bed and Breakfast or Seagove Stoneware Inn both located in Seagrove. Also, check out the Airbnb options in the Asheboro and Seagrove areas.

2. When Are Pottery Shops and Galleries Open

Most are open YEAR Round. Some request a call ahead.

3. What restaurants are in the area?

Although the choices are limited, there are a few options for dining in Seagrove and a few on the outskirts of town.

Fresh Cuts Butcher Shop has a deli with ample seating.

Across the street is the La Fiesta Mexican Food Truck, with indoor seating as well.

Seagove Family Restaurant is located just below the Highway on 200 south.

Mona Lisa II Italian Restaurant is located just up the Highway in Asheboro but near Seagove.

Cagle’s Restaurant is further down on the 705 Pottery Highway.

I understand a new farm-to-table restaurant will be opening in late Fall 2023. So stay tuned for an update.

4. Where can you relax after a busy day of pottery shopping?

This is much easier because the mayor of Seagrove has opened the cutest wine and beer bar, The General Wine and Brew. You will love the quaint atmosphere of the renovated old general store. It’s right on the North Carolina Pottery Highway in the town of Seagove, so stop by and say hello.

5. What else is there to do around the North Carolina Pottery Highway?

I’m so glad you asked because the area has lots of vintage and antique shopping options. To see full details, visit Thrifting in Asheboro NC

In addition, the North Carolina Zoo is just a few miles away. Did you know that it is the world’s largest natural habitat zoo? The NC Zoo is nestled on 2,600 wooded acres centrally located in the heart of North Carolina, just south of Asheboro in Randolph County.

The North Carolina Aviation Museum and Hall of Fame is also in Asheboro, NC and you can see details here.

Hiking the Uwharrie Trail and visiting the Pisgah Covered Bridge also great excursions in Randolph County.

With the Handmade Pottery Capital of the USA just down the road, it’s a perfect vacation destination.

So plan your trip to visit central North Carolina and an have amazing time.

Additional Antique and Vintage Decorating Ideas

Don’t leave until you’ve visited Thrifting with the Gals. Next up is Joanne Anastasia Lifestyle and Design with her Two Things to look for while Thrifting. Be sure to click the links below to follow along on all the thrifting adventures.

Joanne Anastasia Lifestyle and Design / Ann at Dabbling and Decorating

Robyn’s French Nest / Kristin at White Arrows Home

Travel guide to the North Carolina Pottery Highway - Capital of Handmade Pottery of the USA, Seagove, NC

Vickie Roeber

Friday 10th of November 2023

I would like a map of the pottery trip if you would share!


Saturday 11th of November 2023

Vickie, I don't have a map that is sharable. If you plan to visit, you may contact the Randolph country chamber of commerce or the NC Potter Center. I have it linked in my post.

Robyn Huff

Monday 23rd of October 2023

I love this post, Rachel! These pottery pieces are beautiful, I would love to visit sometime. I love how you incorporated them in your decor! I had the best time doing this blog hop with you!


Tuesday 24th of October 2023

Robyn, I really appreciate this. I hope you get to visit some time.


Friday 20th of October 2023

This is so wonderful Rachel! I want to come explore the Highway! So fun to learn something new!


Saturday 21st of October 2023

Kristin, I'd love for you to come. You'd love it.

Joanna Anastasia

Thursday 19th of October 2023

I love pottery, I'd love to learn how to make some- meanwhile I'll be obsessing over your gorgeous finds!Thank you so much for inviting me over to be thrifting together!


Friday 20th of October 2023

Joanna, Thank you for joining us this month. I'm glad you liked my post and hope you get to come to the Pottery Capital one day.


Thursday 19th of October 2023

I've never heard of this before, it looks so amazing and I love that little country store restaurant. So informative!


Thursday 19th of October 2023

Ann, Thank you. It's easy to take the places we have in our backdoors for granted. I am glad you liked it.