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Still turning: Museum inducts folk potters into permanent exhibit
David Meaders, left, checks out a piece of pottery made by Stanley Irvin, right, Saturday during at the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia. Irvin was one of four potters to be inducted into the “Living Traditions” permanent exhibition. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Many museums pay homage to extinct entities, but the newest exhibit at the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia is doing just the opposite.

"‘Living Traditions’ is actually the final section of our permanent exhibit," said Chris Brooks, director of the museum at Ga. 283 and 255 N in Sautee Nacoochee.

"Visitors learn about the history of folk pottery in Northeast Georgia and then at the end, they see photos and representative pieces by living folk potters who are continuing the craft and preserving the traditions of the earlier folk potters.

"That is really one of the most interesting facts to visitors — that we have a living museum and not just the story of a craft that has died out."

The latest class of inductees includes Kathy Meaders, Stanley Irvin and Kurt Hewell. Jerry "Yardbird" Yarbrough was also a part of the 2012 induction class; unfortunately, Yarbrough died a few days before the Jan. 21 ceremony, Brooks says.

"This is only the second class we have inducted since opening in 2006," Brooks said.

"Our first inductees after the opening of the museum were Rex Hogan of White County, Kevin ‘Turkey’ Merck of Hall County, and Mike Craven of Gillsville.

"When the museum first opened we recognized 33 living potters."

In order to be considered for inclusion, the potters had to meet three criteria.

"The potters must be trained by potters carrying on more than two centuries of traditional methods in this area," Brooks said.

"They must continue these traditions in their own work, and their work must be acknowledged as among the best quality of Northeast Georgia folk pottery."

The acknowledgment comes from a committee of area experts.

Both Irvin and Meaders are descendents of Cheever and Arie Meaders, White County pottery pioneers.

"(Irvin) does a lot of face jugs, and he also does a lot of pitchers with (decorative) grapes," said his wife, Kathy Irvin.

"His mom, (Ruby Meaders) says he inherited his grandmother’s talent for decorating and his grandfather’s talent for turning."

According to Kathy Irvin, her husband creates about 25 face jugs each year. Each one is given a man’s name and a number, marking the jug’s sequence in the series, she says.

"He starts all over in January," Kathy Irvin said.

Hewell picked up his skills through family members at Hewell Pottery in Gillsville, while Yarbrough studied under the late Bobby Ferguson, also of Gillsville.

"I’m a fifth-generation potter," Hewell said.

"My father (Henry H. Hewell) used to take me to work with him when I was a kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old. I picked up a little here and there just by working with him."

He also studied under the Craven family of potters.

With 40 years "in and around pottery," Hewell has created a number of pieces, but he says folks have come to recognize his signature color palette.

"Most people recognize my green glaze with a blue-ish white glaze on top," Hewell said.

Visitors interested in checking out the "Living Traditions" exhibit can visit the museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Regular admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children.

For more information, visit or call 706-878-3300.