Crafts of all types have enjoyed a recent resurgence, especially pottery. The South is home to one of the country’s most famous and deep-rooted centers for potters and their works: the tiny hamlet of Seagrove in central North Carolina. Dating from the 1700s, when Indigenous peoples and then the colonists used the ideally suited red clay to create vessels of all types, the town has evolved into one of the country’s largest pottery communities. Most of these artists are heavily concentrated along a swath of countryside called the North Carolina Pottery Highway — all centered on a nearly 30-mile span on Highway 705.

Roughly 90 studios and shops spread across the highway, and many of them are in the artisans’ homes — each just minutes away from one other. The enclave is often called “Jugtown” for its output of oversized jugs created with human features.

To get an idea of just how many studios you’ll find in the area, take a look at the map below, which features Seagrove Area Potters Association (SAPA) members:

Consider hitting the trail during the region’s annual festivals and open studio times, including the Seagrove Pottery Festival always held right before Thanksgiving and the Spring Pottery Tour held in mid-April.

Weekend jaunts in spring and fall when studios are open often offer demonstrations and even a hands-on experience. Consider picking a few studios to focus on, plus a local art gallery or two. Here are some top must-see stops along this very special part of the South:

Ben Owen Pottery

105 Ben’s Place, Seagrove, NC 27341 • (336) 879-2262

Recognized as the oldest pottery studio in the state, Ben Owen Pottery is always inspiring. Ben Owen III’s ancestors immigrated from England to North Carolina in the 1700s, fashioning jars and pottery pieces for early colonists. His work often reflects an Asian flair, emanating from his grandfather’s love of styles from the Pacific Rim.

Ben Owen Pottery

Ben Owen III, of Ben Owen Pottery, is a descendant of arguably the most famous pottery family in the United States. Image: Ben Owen

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Michèle Hastings & Jeff Brown Pottery

505 East Main Street, Seagrove, NC 27341 • (336) 873-1001

Michèle Hastings and Jeff Brown moved to Seagrove (Jeff’s home state) in 2010 and established their home and studio, Gypsy Potters. “Living the dream and making pottery in this community of 100-plus potters is truly a joy and inspiration,” notes Michèle. And after a 20-year focus on functional pottery, Jeff describes his latest work as “an exploration of surrealism, and the limitlessness of the imagination.”

Potter Jeff Brown of Gypsy Potters on the North Carolina Pottery Highway

Potter Jeff Brown met his future wife and current partner, Michèle Hastings, while working as a pottery instructor. They now work out of a combined Seagrove studio. Image: Jeff Brown

Michèle Hastings of Gypsy Potters

Michèle grew up in New Hampshire and first fell in love with pottery in a high school art class. Image: Jeff Brown

Crystal King Pottery

2475 NC-705, Seagrove, NC 27341 • (336) 879-6990

For a more whimsical take on pottery, check out the work of Crystal King, a native to the Seagrove region. As the daughter of renowned local potters Terry and Anna King, Crystal grew up playing with clay and received early recognition in her high school days. Today, museums display her work, particularly her fantastical figures and animals.

Crystal King Pottery on North Carolina Pottery Highway

Like many potters in Seagrove, Crystal King learned her craft from her parents. Here she holds one of her pieces in front of a wood-fired kiln. Image: Crystal King

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The Holly Inn

155 Cherokee Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374 • (844) 330-1664

To carve out a night along the North Carolina Pottery Highway, consider staying in a work of art — Pinehurst’s historic Holly Inn. Just a little over 30 minutes from the first scattering of potters, the Holly was constructed in 1895 as the Pinehurst Resort’s first hotel. With a mix of Arts and Crafts and Queen Anne Revival architecture, the inn’s period lighting and vintage woodwork celebrate the artistry of craftsmen. And the town of Pinehurst echoes a folksy, vintage feel with its walkable country lanes lined with quaint cottages and gardens.

The Holly Inn

An antique in itself, Pinehurst’s vintage Holly Inn is replete in handcrafted paneling, furnishings and detailing, mirroring its historic surroundings. Image: Pinehurst Resort

Pinehurst Brewery Company

300 Magnolia Road, Pinehurst, NC 28374 • (910) 235-8218

As a further salute to the heritage of this region, a new brewery recently opened in a rehabbed building. Housed in a circa 1895 steam plant that provided power to the original resort, Pinehurst Brewing Company offers the perfect combo of North Carolina barbecue, beer and music.

And as you leave the highway and reach the only stoplight in Seagrove, make one last stop and explore the Seagrove Pottery Gallery — which showcases more than 100 local and regional potters.

Pinehurst Brewery Company on the North Carolina Pottery Highway

Pop into Pinehurst Brewing Company — an old 1800s steam plant-turned-brewery for food, drink and entertainment. Image: Pinehurst

Make sure to include a stop at Seagrove Pottery Gallery before you head home. Image: NCDOT Communications via Flickr CC

To learn more about the Seagrove, to explore the various artists you’ll find there, and to start planning your trip, visit discoverseagrove.com. Bear in mind that hours and operations may be abbreviated due to COVID-19, so confirm that the businesses are open before you go.

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