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Blue Ridge Pottery draws fans to county for annual event

Doug and Kathy Fields, of Woodlawn, Virginia stand next to their collection of Blue Ridge Pottery during the 39th Blue Ridge Antique Pottery Annual Show and Sale. (Erwin Record Staff Photo by Richard Rourk)

By Richard Rourk

Collectors from as far as California came to Unicoi County to visit with old friends and to swap historic works of art during the 39th Blue Ridge Antique Pottery Annual Show and Sale at Love Chapel Elementary on Oct. 3-5.

Blue Ridge Pottery was hand-painted by workers at Southern Potteries, Inc. in Erwin from 1917-1957. Although there is no date on the pieces, there is a way to get an idea of the age of the pottery.

“You can get an idea of the age of the pottery by looking at the designs of both the plates and the paint,” Jay Parker of Minneapolis, Minnesota said. “Some of the oldest pieces I have are from 1920.”

According to Parker, who also spoke with The Erwin Record during last year’s event, he has been working on a new wing of his collection.

“In my personal collection, I recently have been focusing on a specific design called ‘Countryside’,” Parker said.

Kathy Fields and her husband Doug Fields, from Woodlawn, Virginia, set up shop inside of the Love Chapel Elementary gym on Thursday, Oct. 3.

“The thing I love about these pieces is that they never painted the same pieces the same way, twice,” Doug Fields said. “You can tell the rookies from the experienced painters.”

According to Kathy Fields, the search for new pieces is what drives the collectors.

“We enjoy the search – we find our pieces at antique malls, flea markets, auctions and sometimes you get lucky and find a good deal at garage sales,” Kathy Fields said.

For the Fields, finding patterns that have not been discovered yet is the most thrilling part of the hunt.

“There have been several that we have found, that we actually got to name,” Kathy Fields said. “Sometimes you find a piece that is actually signed by the artist,” Doug Fields added.

Parker agreed with the Fields that the thrill of the hunt is what drives the collectors and motivates them to make the annual pilgrimage to Erwin.

“You never know what you will find out there,” Parker said. “I actually had someone call me about some interesting pieces that I bought and added to my collection.”

According to Parker, the trip to Erwin is one he waits all year for.

“I plan my vacation every year around this show,” he added. “I get to see old friends, see unusual pieces and just have a good time.”