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Meaders keeps turning family potters wheel
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‘Pottery Comes to Town’

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: White County Courthouse, Cleveland

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Whelchel Meaders will be among the potters participating in the “Pottery Comes to Town” event 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday in the White County Courthouse parking lot in Cleveland.

And, yes, he is a member of the well-known Meaders potters, some of whom have their pieces exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution. Though he is considered the patriarch of Saturday’s event at age 84, he doesn’t claim any fame as a potter and is modest about his work, which he says he does mainly just to have something to do beside cut grass in his spacious yard, which overlooks Skitts Mountain.

“There’s no money in it,” Meaders says, and he seems almost embarrassed about the prices folk pieces sell for. What once sold for a dime now brings $50-$60, he said. Some North Georgia folk pottery goes for much more. That’s why Meaders lets his wife, Eunice, set the prices.

They told about an artist who once figured the cost of materials and time put into making a piece, and it turned out a potter would make only about 17 cents an hour.

Meaders was raised around pottery; his grandfather was John Milton Meaders, great-grandfather Christopher Meaders, and his father L.Q. Meaders. L.Q. and his brothers Casey and Cheever learned from their older brothers, Wiley, Caulder and Cleater.

The better-known Lanier Meaders of the Mossy Creek clan, Whelchel’s first cousin, was the son of Cheever Meaders. Besides Whelchel, other Meaders potters still working include David in Hall County and Edwin (Nub), in his 90s, in White County.

L.Q. Meaders was a school teacher, too, having completed Chattahoochee High School in Clermont. He taught pottery at Brenau College, as it was called then, to help get his three daughters through the college.

Though Whelchel knew how to turn and burn at an early age, he didn’t really get into pottery until he retired in 1991. He was in the military almost a quarter century, including the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Then he worked as an engineer for the state Department of Transportation 34 years.

The Meaders’ two daughters, Karan Sosebee and Melanie Williams, wanted to learn to turn, so he built a shop. After a while, he said, they discovered pottery-making wasn’t for them, so they pursued professional careers.

That left their father to take up where he’d left off as a child. Despite his obvious vast knowledge of the art, his heritage and the unique pieces he turns out, Whelchel Meaders downplays his skill. “I was never good at turning,” he modestly tries to argue.

His ancestors worked even harder at it, Meaders says. They dug their own clay from their land, ground it, turned it and fired it. Much of their pottery was practical — churns, jugs, crocks and pitchers. Only in more modern times has pottery been recognized as art and become in demand by collectors.

Pottery varies by whatever section it’s made in. Besides the Meaders family, Hewells and Fergusons in the Gillsville area and Cravens nearby in Maysville, Wilsons and Crockers in Hall County and numerous others around Georgia, North Carolina and Alabama all exhibit and sell their ware.

Whelchel Meaders knows most of them, and at one time knew nine potters turning and burning in the Mossy Creek area of White County.

After years of turning the pottery wheel and molding the clay, Whelchel Meaders says his shoulders, arms and hands wore out. He had his shoulder replaced, and only in the last few months has he been able to produce pottery again. Meaders turns enough to exhibit and sell in shows, such as next Saturday’s event in Cleveland.

Electricity fires his kiln and turns his pottery wheel. He doesn’t specialize in any particular piece, but face jugs and other ware wait their finishing touches on the shelves of his shop. Also in his shop are relics of the past, including his father’s foot-powered wheel, a four-gallon churn L.Q. made, both of 1919 vintage, and numerous photos of Meaders potters. L.Q. died at age 91 in 1976.

White County Historical Society sponsors Saturday’s sale and show in conjunction with Agri-Fest held in Freedom Park behind the courthouse. Whelchel Meaders’s daughter Melanie came up with the name “Pottery Comes to Town” after an annual show at Mossy Creek was discontinued.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times.

‘Pottery Comes to Town’

When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday

Where: White County Courthouse, Cleveland

More infoFacebook page

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