Of all the things there are to do and see in North Georgia, from hiking to tubing to panning for gold, there is one activity that goes back further in history than the first rush for nuggets - pottery.
And North Georgia is full of it. From the Native American pieces recovered at Nacoochee Mound to the jug heads of Lanier Meaders, a soul can't pass through the region without seeing evidence that mankind depended on the soil for more than crops.
Folk pottery is a part of Southern culture still crafted today, but the South certainly isn't the only source.
The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia will celebrate its second anniversary Monday by opening a yearlong exhibition of international folk pottery representing cultures from around the world.
"These artifacts are drawn from the private collection of John Burrison, folklorist at Georgia State University and curator of our museum," said Chris Brooks, director at the museum. Burrison has accumulated various international pieces as gifts from colleagues and friends, according to Brooks.
Brooks said viewers are going to see a broad cross section of works from around the world.
"This exhibit will really illustrate the diversity of ceramic traditions across the globe," Burrison said. "It's a contrast of the North Georgia ceramics people are used to, but also about making connections; to see that some of the traditions used in other parts of the world were also used in North Georgia."
A good example Burrison said is a French ring jug - a hollow, doughnut-shaped piece that also has been seen in Southern pottery. Burrison notes that some of the exhibit's forms parallel the folk pottery of North Georgia, while some pieces have no relationship at all.
About 25 pieces from China, Japan, France, the British Isles, Germany, Mexico and the Middle East comprise the exhibition. Examples of earthenware, stoneware and porcelain, from the utilitarian to the contemporary, will be on display to allow viewers to draw connections between the folk pottery of North Georgia and international folk pieces.
Brooks said by going through the museum's permanent collection first, viewers can gain an understanding of folk pottery. Once used on farms for everyday purposes, folk pottery now is widely collected as decorative art.
"North Georgia pottery is historically stoneware made from refined clay, whereas Native Americans used surface clays to make earthenware," Brooks said.
For those who may be experiencing folk pottery for the first time, Brooks explains the difference between stoneware, porcelain and earthenware is vitrification, or the fusing of the silica in the clay, which depends on the heat intensity the pottery is fired at.
Viewers also will get a glimpse of several different types of glazes. One piece in particular, Brooks said, is a good example of Cini pottery, or Turkish folk pottery made from a soft, white paste with a lead glaze.
Brooks said viewers can see examples of salt glazes, lead glazes, Asian ash glazes and the alkaline glazes that originated in Edgefield, S.C., a defining characteristic of Southern pottery.
"The exhibition will show some connections between design and techniques in other countries to what Georgia folk potters were developing in their own communities," Brooks said.
The museum focuses on "living traditions" in folk pottery and Brooks said he wants viewers to see the tradition as it is carried out in other cultures. The exhibit presents pieces ranging in date from the 17th century to as recent as 2005.
In addition to the international exhibit, the Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institution will extend the loan of a 600-year-old bowl excavated in 1915 from the Nacoochee Mound at the intersection of Ga. 17 and Ga. 75, two miles from the Folk Pottery Museum.
This will be the first time the Nacoochee Mound bowl, produced by Mississippian tribes who inhabited the area centuries ago, will be displayed at the museum.