Pick a Peck of Pretty Pots — And More

02 Oct 2022

Autumn has arrived at this 17-year-old pottery in Seagrove

By Crissy Neville  »  Photos by Melissa Souto

Sunflower bowls. Tobacco leaf trays. Tree bark planters. Woodland creature sculptures and pretty pumpkins are ripe for the picking. Autumn has arrived at Thomas Pottery of Seagrove, and potters Bobbie and Scott Thomas are here to prepare you for the season quicker than you can say, “It’s fall, ya’ll.”

As natives of North Carolina and to the Sandhills, Southern vernacular is apropos for the couple and their 17-year-old business. So are the traditional arts, in this case, pottery. Located in the handmade pottery capital of the country, Thomas Pottery is right at home among artisans keeping alive traditions begun in “Jugtown” some 200 years ago there and in civilization, thousands.

Bobbie has an arts background but found a new passion in pottery making when Scott discovered, nearly by chance, a hidden talent for the craft. Serendipity landed the pair in Seagrove when the pastime turned to profession in 2007. Bobbie left a 25-year-tenured career in computer administration to pursue her artistic dreams, and the pair moved to Seagrove, building their home and studio. Today, Bobbie runs the business and works at the pottery full-time, and Scott is dually employed with a full-time local government role and as joint owner and potter at Thomas.

Recently, the couple has become known for the whimsical woodland animals they tag team to create. When it comes to turning pottery, they divide and conquer — Scott handles the larger pieces and is more traditional in design. Bobbie turns smaller projects and enjoys hand-building physical features and decorative details. While firing, glazing and embellishing the pieces, from owls and squirrels to rabbits and turtles and more, to finish the friendly critters, there’s more to the story. Many of Bobbie’s creations are inspired by classic children’s storybooks.

“Since I was already familiar with making rabbits and turtles, The Tortoise and the Hare was created first,” Bobbie said. “Next, I made a rabbit holding flowers inspired by a book I found titled, The Colorful Bunny. Then the tea party was made — a scene with a rabbit, cat, frog and turtle sitting around a stump having a tea party. This is still my favorite. I spend one month making sculptures each year, pushing myself to create new animals and find more intriguing books.”

A walk through the Thomas Pottery gift gallery is the best way to see Bobbie’s current creature line-up. The storybooks that inspired each year’s sculptures are included with the pottery purchase, but she said most adults find an affinity for the animals apart from the books.

Another way to enjoy the couple’s creations is through their year-round event calendar. Bobbie’s favorite piece of animal art helped launch another leg of the art + literature pairings — by way of a live event. Why only read about a tea party when you can attend one?  

It was 2015 when Bobbie’s brainchild of hosting tea parties was born — a way to promote Thomas Pottery’s teatime pieces, sculptures and tableware while also showcasing the pottery industry. While original to Thomas Pottery, the event blossomed into the twice-annual “tea crawl” known as Tea with Seagrove Potters. The popular spring and summer programs are self-driving, tea-tasting experiences along Highway 705, aka N.C. Pottery Highway, an N.C. Scenic Byway, with typically half a dozen potteries participating, including Thomas.

Visitors are invited to “shop hop” and sample Carriage House teas and fresh baked goods from The Table Farmhouse Bakery; both are Asheboro businesses and event partners. As for the order of the day, the complimentary events flow freely, much like the gentle foothill landscape of the pottery capital’s Piedmont home. Ditto for other Seagrove community events in which Thomas Pottery participates: Potters’ Pumpkin Patch, American Craft Week, Celebration of Seagrove Potters Fall Festival & Studio Tour and Holiday Open House. Learn more at discoverseagrove.com.

The affairs become boutique with Bobbie and Scott’s signature Festival of Leaves, Oct. 15 and Christmas Open House, Dec. 3 and 10. Get all the details at thomaspottery.com or by following the studio on Facebook or Instagram.

In the Thomas Pottery studio, the animal sculptures live alongside other hand-crafted figurines like the log cabins, fir trees and snowmen of their Winter Scene Collection featured on the cover of the Nov. 2020 Our State magazine. Plus, there’s stoneware pottery for home and garden décor and baking and serving needs — all oven, microwave and dishwasher safe. Practicality meets artistry with Thomas Pottery’s selection of platters and plates, bowls and trays, bakeware pieces, mugs and cups, wine caddies and pitchers — and just about anything else needed for a tablescape teeming with creativity. Intricate embellishments, a hallmark of Thomas Pottery, create a landmark collection evocative of North Carolina sights and symbols: dragonflies and dogwoods, basketweaves and woodgrains and other things quintessential.

The beautiful countryside and campus, located at 1295 S. NC Highway 705 in Seagrove, deliver another sensory feast. See the potters at work with a peek through the studio’s spacious windows, meander through the adjacent cabin that serves as the sales gallery, walk around the lush landscape that surrounds the site. Find a water feature here, a rustic outbuilding there and an idyllic, peaceful feeling everywhere. Relax under the covered patio surrounded by gorgeous greenery — ferns, flowers, succulents, herbs and other assorted plants — all grown by Bobbie in her greenhouse or garden plot out back. Stay tuned for her 2023 plant sales to take some home for yourself, following a fall you-pick visit for a pretty pottery pumpkin.

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