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Pottery exhibit highlights old-world tradition
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A wagon sits in the Northeast Georgia History Center filled with pottery and straw. The wagon, which would have been drawn by a horse or mule, is there to display how the Meaders family would transport pottery to sell from their rural Mossy Creek home to the city of Gainesville. Beside the wagon is a painting by Clarkesville artist John Kollock depicting a family loading up for such a trip.

It’s all part of the newest exhibit at the center, "Traditions in Clay: The Folk Pottery of Northeast Georgia."

The display showcases pots on loan from The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia and also highlights the conception and building of the museum.

"We know the Meaders did take their wares by wagon to various areas in Northeast Georgia," said Chris Brooks, exhibit curator and museum director at the Folk Pottery Museum.

"A lot of times, a potter might sell to individual farmers, but if you could go to a crossroads store or a county seat town like Gainesville and get pieces placed in a number of dry goods stores, you got your product out there faster," he said.

The contrast of old utilitarian jugs, made for the storage of food or drink, with a pallet full of plastic-wrapped Hewell strawberry pots gives museumgoers an idea of how folk pottery has progressed from necessity to decoration and from local to international trade.

"When you go home and go to the kitchen and open the cabinet or refrigerator, you do not think at all about the container your food is in. It’s just a given — it’s plastic, cardboard, shrink-wrapped or something like that," said Glen Kyle, managing director for the History Center.

"But pottery is what, before all that stuff came, people used to store their food in for generations — for hundreds, for thousands of years."

The Meaders, Hewell and Crocker families are featured in the exhibit along with other potters from Northeast Georgia.

Lanier Meaders, one of the most well-known folk potters, is highlighted. The History Center also houses a permanent pottery collection that includes a kick wheel made by Lanier Meaders.

Kyle said the new exhibit also is part of an effort by the Northeast Georgia History Center to branch out and include the history of areas outside Gainesville and to point visitors to other museums.

"It’s something to make folks think not only about the artistic expression that has come to be in the last few decades, the last couple of generations, but also to look at life in the past just as it was," Kyle said. "Tradition was kept alive and began to grow into a niche market that highlighted not only the traditional values and crafts of the region, but really exhibited the creativity of the region as well."

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