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619 2nd St NE
Hickory NC 28601
Printed in Vietnam
CARMEN ECKARD JON ECKARD
Chief Editor Principal Photographer
Robert Canipe Carolyn Pleasants York
Calvin Reyes Ashley Kirby
Richard Eller James Thomas Shell
Heather Wood Davis Jeffrey Wilhelm
James Thomas Shell Clayton Joe Young
Gabriel Sherman Michael K. Dugan
Ryan Gant Mitzi Gellman
Tara Bland Dr. Jessica Urzen
Letter from Editor
First, I want to say that making this magazine for you continues to be one
of the greatest pleasures of my life. Secondly, I want to thank you for your
readership, and your excitement. I know that Foothills Digest is growing
in part because you are telling your friends, and we are very honored.
Spring is here. Spring is lovely almost everywhere, but it seems particularly
special here. The rebirth of nature after a long freeze is inspirational on
many levels. Spring causes our ground to positively burst forth with life.
This issue examines the bounty that comes from our ground. Some of the
region’s greatest treasures are dug from our dirt. Emeralds, rubies and sapphires
have been found here for centuries, and you can still hunt for them yourself.
Catawba Valley Pottery is made from clay dug out of our river banks. With
examples of our clay and craft on display at the Smithsonian, it’s easy to see
the value of our land and craftsmanship. We also examine the crops that grow
here, and feature a list of farmers markets and pick-your-own strawberry farms.
Doc Watson always said that he built Merlefest ”From the ground up”
and we’re excited to bring you information about the festival and the acts.
You can even listen to music of each artist if you follow the QR codes.
This land is special. I know you can feel it. I’m thrilled and honored to
research and share what I find about our home. I’m glad we are neighbors.
You’ll find QR codes throughout this magazine...download a free QR code
reader to find out what treasures they hold. The one on this page will take
you to a survey about your experience with this magazine. It’s only with
your feedback that we’ll be able to make this your favorite read, which is
our goal. Let us know what you think, and what you’d like to see more of!
Visit our site, foothillsdigest.com!
Contents SPRING 2018
05 Letter from the editor 36 Arie Reinhardt Taylor
08 Subscription Information 42 Mountain Memories with Granny Eckard
10 Daily Report 44 Frescos of the Foothills
12 The Emerald City 48 Trade Alley Art
14 Buried Treasure Map 50 Hunter Speagle
16 We Salute John Gordon Ross 52 Laying Beneath Rain, On a Strange Roof
18 Fox and the Hound 54 Leaving a Legacy of Love
22 Staycation in Hickory 56 Opulent Seating for 10
24 Catawba Valley Pottery 60 An Appalachian Cidery
34 Burlon Craig’s Legacy 62 Foothills Farming
64 Farmers Markets
68 Hickory Greenway Harvest
70 Pick Your Own Strawberries
80 Highland Avenue Restaurant
86 Derby Party
106 Gardening as Therapy
110 Lame Duck Savior
114 Dear David
115 Eventfully Yours
116 Foothills Astrologer
128 Poetry of Carolyn Pleasants York
130 Rites of Spring
134 The Gas Station at the End of the World
You can always subscribe online at http://foothillsdigest.com, but you can also fill
out this form and send it in to: Foothills Digest/619 2nd St NE/Hickory NC, 28601.
Subscriptions are $22 per year and we publish quarterly. Shipping is $14.
Please enclose a check or your credit card information. Cards are charged $36
Our partner company is Eckard Photographic, and you’ll
notice that most of our photography is by Jon Eckard.
He is a commercial photographer based in Hickory, North
Carolina. He is quite good at assessing the needs of your
business and delivering high quality photography quickly
and at fair rates. We think the quality of his work speaks
for itself, and we hope you will call as business needs arise.
HTTP://ECKARDPHOTOGRAPHIC.COM | 828.475.1323
Savor and sample well crafted
spirits and farm-to-fork cuisine,
all crafted in the Hickory Metro.
Food shown provided by Standard Oyster Company, Highland Avenue, Fourk, and Honor Ale House. Photos by EP.
Photo by Jeff Wilhelm
By Carmen Eckard
North America’s largest cut emerald
came from Hiddenite, a hidden gem
of our own, which speaks to our long
history of exceptional gem mining.
Hiddenite is a small town in Alexander ground quite often, it’s very exciting
County known for the stunning array to seek them out. Several stones
of emeralds and other gems. The worth more than $1 million have
unincorporated town was named after been unearthed in the last century.
William Earl Hidden, a mineralogist In fact, it’s not uncommon for guests to
sent to North Carolina by Thomas find gemstones. Sometimes, blind luck
Edison to look for platinum. Instead, he even steps in to lend an hand!
found the gem that was eventually his Graduate gemologist and accredited
namesake: hiddenite. This gemstone jewelry professional Ana Cristina
is the only one of the precious Godoy was delighted to find a
gemstones that can’t be synthesized. beautiful emerald. ”Soon after I moved
Even though the town carries the name to NC from sunny California, I met a
of the gem, it’s actually other gems the man that made my love for gemology
region is most famous for. Rubies and even stronger, Robert Reitzel. He told
Sapphires are found here and draw in me he found wonderful emeralds in
many rock hounds, but they are more Hiddenite. I thought, ’well typical older
concentrated in more western parts man story.’ He said ’Well you come
of the state. In fact, 63 different with me to Hiddenite and I’ll show you
minerals can be found in Hiddenite, where I found those emeralds.” After
but emeralds are the pride of this land. a rainy day we went out on the field
In fact, the largest cut emerald ever and he told me what to look for. There
found in North America came from it was! A beautiful emerald right there
Hiddenite. A 310 carat emerald dubbed on the ground and no, I didn’t even dig
“The Carolina Emperor” was found in an inch.”
2010 by Terry Ledford and Ren Adams. In 2012, a couple found $40,000 worth
The pair found the enormous gemstone of emeralds in one afternoon. Finds of
14 feet under ground in a quartz vein this size are, of course, rare. But they
they were digging. Ren’s family has aren’t impossible, which makes this
been hunting emeralds since 1880, and place quite special.
it’s easy to imagine his ancestor’s pride. Stones from Hiddenite are displayed
In a tragic twist, Ledford was killed in a in the Smithsonian and the Museum of
mine collapse in Hiddenite just 4 years Natural History, among other places.
after he found the Carolina Emperor. You can visit the Nature Museum at
Geologist Ed Speer says, “Emeralds Grandfather Mountain, where a 722
are very rare in the world and only a carat emerald called The Bolick Emerald
few countries host emerald deposits. is on display. It will give you an idea of
North Carolina is lucky to have three the treasures hiding beneath our soil.
known emerald districts, including Hiddenite is located five miles east
the Hiddenite district.” Moreover, our of Taylorsville on Highway 90. The
region is the only place in the world Emerald Hollow Mine is the only
that emeralds are found with the much emerald mine in the nation open to
rarer hiddenite. visitors. You can visit their site at
Hiddenite hosts a booming cottage http://www.emeraldhollowmine.com/.
industry of gemstones. Because
valuable gems are still pulled from the
Buried Treasure Map
It isn’t just emeralds that are hiding in our ground.
Western North Carolina is rich in corundum and
mangnesian rocks. Corundum includes sapphires and
rubies, both of which are found in abundance in our hills.
This 1905 map by Joseph Pratt and J. Volney Lewis
highlights the locations of our more valuable gemstones.
Doc’s Rocks, located at Mystery
Hill in Blowing Rock, offers
guided rock hunting tours of the
Foothills. Doc personally takes
rock hunters around our region
to proven sites. This is truly
the best way for beginners to
get started. You can re ach Doc’s
Rocks at 828-264-4499.
Map courtesy of North Carolina Maps
foothills Digest is pleased to honor Maestro
John Gordon Ross for his 27 years of service
to the Foothills of NC.
He is retiring from the Western Piedmont
Symphony after bringing music to
our region for nearly three decades.
John has always been innovative, and has
looked for ways to spread his love of music.
He has never been content to keep music in
the performance halls, and has brought it to
the community at large.
The first students that he brought the symphony
to in his school program are now adults, many
of whom have continued to nurture a deep
and abiding appreciation of music.
In Spring, hope springs eternal. There is a fresh optimism that the new growth around us will lead to abundance
and prosperity. It seems we see a disconnect all around us, when we have so much to offer one another. Older
people have wisdom that younger people need as they follow in the footsteps down life’s path. The younger folks
bring the freshness and energy needed to continue building upon the structure of society. The goal of mankind
should be to make this place better. We all have to work together to make that happen. We need to appreciate
one another. We need to understand one another. We need to connect.
My goal in discussing this Fox and Hound material is efficiently, if it isn’t fully connected and engaged with
dedicated to a thread associated with Economic Growth. the marketplace. You must constantly engage your
The initial discussion related to my thoughts about our customers to understand their needs (demand). If those
area’s need for a comprehensive Economic Development who you are looking to attract don’t perceive value in
plan. I talked about a plan defined by transparency, your product, then you will lose them to competent
accountability, and establishing benchmarks that helps competitors.
build trust with the citizens. Growth comes from customer demand. Demand is
The next discussion, I addressed “Vision” for our area, understood by discovering a customer’s unmet needs.
trying to relate that we need to change how we view Current purchases don’t necessarily reflect future
communities in the big picture. Our region, rural in opportunity. Recognizing your current position in the
nature, will succeed better by relating ourselves not as marketplace requires you to understand the frustrations,
Smalltown Americana, but as several small to mid-sized attitudes, and unmet needs in the market. Proactively,
communities interconnected through similar, mutual you must develop your organization, products, and
interests having a population of over a half a million priorities keying on customer engagement to meet
people. customer needs and resolve frustrations.
Now, I want to talk about aligning with the marketplace. In As an example, I have been to various community
my opinion, there is somewhat of a disconnect between meetings and events where public officials painted the
what currently defines the communities of our region and rosiest of rosy scenarios about where their community
where communities with robust economic circumstances stands economically, socially, and culturally; in other
stand. words, the community’s position in the marketplace. I
What constitutes the modern marketplace? 1) The get it, this comes part in parcel with leadership, status,
Marketplace is the everyday world of trade and/or and how one justifies their authority, but it does not
economic activity. 2) The Marketplace is where intangible necessarily correlate to economic reality. It does not
values compete for acceptance; as in the marketplace of necessarily correlate to economic success. Remember
ideas. 3) The Marketplace is the interpreter of supply and what I told you in my “Vision” article, “Economic growth
demand equilibrium. correlates to quality of life.”
Marketplaces are constantly changing. The Modern There is a disconnect between area leadership and
Marketplace isn’t the formal infrastructure where people their understanding of the younger generations in the
gather for trade, as it could be interpreted in days gone community. Community leadership is mostly of the Baby
by. In fact the internet has proven beyond a shadow of a Boom generation. We are told about all of the community
doubt that concrete, mortar, and steel aren’t necessary. activities we have to offer and I can’t disagree. We are
In the Modern Marketplace, you still must have human also told that younger people (think Millennials) say there
engagement, at some level, to have a market. isn’t much to do and that is why they go to Charlotte,
Whether it is an individual, company, or community, Asheville, Raleigh, etc. for excursions.
an economic participant cannot grow effectively and We look at the statistics and see the obvious loss (and
lack of engagement) of the younger population in our
community through this generation, while tellin’ everyone
“nuthin’ could be fin-ah than this part of Carolina.” To
me it’s obvious, if we want to attract younger folks, we’ve
got to find out what they need and start addressing the
Agreed. There is a disconnect between the older mobile. I know at least five people that left because
population here and the younger generations, largely our service economy here didn’t pay enough to
in conceptualization regarding the changing realities service their bills or maintain them while they tried
of our economy in relation to memories of a much to study, all of them mid to late 20’s in age. If one
different time. When you ask those neighbors of ours reads the review sites and looks up Hickory we can
in that content age range and demographic, they are taut a great lineup of corporate salaries with an
often less likely to support strong minimum wage average just above 41 thousand. Great tech and
mandates. I don’t assume folks didn’t work hard to logistics companies, lots of manufacturing, and our
gain their successes, I only ask that older generations medical industry that is quite developed for a city
to realize they may have been starting from a different our size…but jobs for those younger folks don’t
spot. Not saying folks haven’t experienced hardships, keep them around if they don’t pay living wages.
but the cost of the education that fueled much of their I have multiple friends who weren’t college bound
success was substantially lower than our students face and wanted to work, and their options for hourly
today. There is also the compensation non-college wages are better in the larger cities.
educated folks are getting now as compared to then, We do have some of the jobs to attract Hipsters,
and that is a huge issue on this topic. and a culture burgeoning to do so as well, and we
When I hear of the marketplace I think of buying are better for it. But, the average young person
power, and that leads me to consider wages. One needs a market that is accessible. That’s both in a
thing that makes younger folks leave are wages and physical nature and about our lack of a strong public
lack of opportunity for increases. I waited tables for transportation system, and in the income disparities
years here, while at CVCC and making 2.13 per hour around us that keep some of us looking for ways
plus tips, and more than once have gone home with out. Access is key to engagement. If we don’t give
20 bucks or less. Because I was a single parent, there younger people jobs to pay their bills and ways to
were also nights a plenty when I paid to work. I served get them there without each person parking a car
at one place where a chef who prepared meals for our on the street, we aren’t offering the kind of access
wealthiest neighbors, while struggling with tooth pain the average will stay for.
and other issues due to no insurance, could barely A strong push towards a living wage for our area
support his family. would not only help those here, but show others that
Had I not lived in Public Housing while getting an we are concerned not only with jobs, but that those
education it would not have been enough to maintain jobs can lift our citizens access to all marketplaces.
my family, and it certainly wasn’t enough to be upwardly Of course, there are bills in the NC General
Assembly that increase the state’s minimum wage
to $15 an hour by 2021, but HB2 a couple years ago
also had the effect of freezing local minimum wage
increases. A push against that law may be required,
because frankly…we don’t want to wait another
three or four years to start offering a living wage,
and that’s assuming either bill passes the NAGA for
a governor to sign.
A civil discourse
Gabriel, besides raising the minimum wage and social issues, economically speaking, what can we do to make our area
more attractive to the younger folks?
Well, and I have mentioned this once before, we need young tradespeople ‘round here. I work with a growing plumbing
company that wants to expand into total home services and the people just aren’t here to fill the jobs. CVCC is going
to have a free hall soon, so why not try for plumbing, HVAC, and electrician training courses? Then internships with
locals looking for young and trainable tradespeople. We can also make a statement if we focus on recruiting female
tradespeople, because we have a lot of interest around here.
Also, how about entrepreneurial incentives and guaranteed startup loans at lower rates for entrepreneurs that stay
here after graduating CVCC or LR? When folks have some ownership in an area, they stay and build things. Perhaps
an organization dedicated to supporting not only new young business owners, but also a plan that could solve two
problems at once. We could treat our empty buildings like the discount travel sites treat empty hotel rooms, and rather
than have them sit there empty…allow legitimate businesses the opportunity to rent to own at a low rate. This could
allow businesses on the verge of expansion the opportunity to grow with a bit of a financial safety net.
There are a couple of warehouses around town that we would take and start using immediately if it were not for the
process of purchasing and investing in upgrades, because we know many of them will need other investments. This is
restrictive to companies that can afford to purchase, but not to invest, or the other way around. If businesses on the
verge of growth could move in, and increase to a financed loan after a time, that would offer a grace period and get
the buildings occupied. These ideas would take investment from established businesses and local government…but
when we raise the water level, our pond gets bigger and more folks can fit in it.
What do you think about raising the investment expectation our business community should make in our citizenry? It
won’t be easy, progress often isn’t, but it’s one way to show we care about a lot of our younger folks around here who
have seemingly been left behind by the success of previous generations.
Yes Gabriel, there is a disconnect and lack of understanding about a lot of things these days. When it comes to these
issues, I’m just not into the label thing and can’t keep up with all the categories. Economically speaking, I know I’ve
heard many of the folks that have moved into our area talk about the low cost of living as a major reason why they
moved here. It’s inexpensive compared to larger metropolitan areas. They’ll flat out tell you they also like the lack of
hustle and bustle of those larger cities. But folks, hustle and bustle is the result of economic commerce.
There is a flip side to that equation that our older newcomers many times fail to recognize. That inexpensive cost of
living many times comes at the expense of those trying to earn a living.
Truly, I understand your angst about wanting to have the minimum wage become a living wage. In my background
profession (Restaurant/Hospitality), we employees many times aren’t getting fairly compensated for the skills we
acquire. There isn’t much difference between the pay of an entry level restaurant employee and someone with decades
I just don’t think we get to better compensation levels with artificial wage constructs; higher minimum wage mandates
lead to less help being hired, more workload for each worker, frazzled brains, frazzled nerves, mistakes, lower quality
services and products, and burn out as you attempt to do more and more work with less and less help. Personally,
I understand the need for a minimum wage, but at some point that minimum wage can rise to become more of a
hindrance than a help. It can rise to the point where entry level workers don’t get hired and also keeps the experienced
workers from getting the merit based pay raises they deserve.
What I think will help wages is a better business environment. More people able and willing to open businesses will lead
to competition. Competition between businesses leads to innovation, when fulfilling the needs of the marketplace.
Competition for labor will lead to higher wages. We had hustle and bustle, in this community in the 1990s, with
the internet revolution spurring worldwide fiber-optic infrastructure layout. Our fiber-optic boom created the highest
employment level in our community’s history and led to the highest wages and wage growth we’ve ever seen.
Yes, government can do things to better facilitate an economic growth environment, such as creating “Business
Improvement Districts” and facilitating microfinance mechanisms. This helps those who don’t have the financial
capability get innovative ideas/products/services off the ground. I just don’t think government will solve all the issues
with the marketplace. People and their needs create the marketplace.
Staycation in Hickory:
Hickory, NC represents a lot of things to even spent countless hours in the Hickory
many different people. A German heritage Furniture Mart with my Walkman and book
where many ancestors settled, a family while my parents shopped for hours. It
lineage of craftsmen in the furniture or wasn’t until I grew up a little and came back
textile industry. A place someone called to work in this area that I found the things
home even though they lived just on the that I enjoyed as a child are still here, still
out-skirts of town. Growing up and still extraordinary and something that draws
to this day, when someone asks “where locals and visitors alike to our area.
are you from?” I reply in my southern style Working in the tourism industry teaches
“Hickory!” you to look at things in a different light.
This is where most of my childhood was The hotel that you stay in during vacation
spent, going to the movies, shopping over the holiday is part of a grander
for Easter dresses at the old Spainhour scheme of things. It is part of the tourism
Company store on Union Square and industry- employees at resorts, attractions,
fishing for catfish and crappies on the river restaurants - that work while you “visit &
(Lake Hickory.) play” are a part of the wonderful tourism
I grew up in the rural surrounding area of industry in that community. Hickory has
Alexander County but called Hickory my a thriving tourism industry which may
“home.” Most people when they hear surprise some. With attractions like the
“Hickory” they automatically say furniture Catawba Science Center, Hickory Museum
and they would be right. We had, and still of Art, festivals and restaurants, Hickory
have to this day, one of the nations leading Motor Speedway, Crawdads baseball
furniture industries. As a child my family games, breweries, distilleries, a vibrant
would visit places like the science center, music scene and the Furniture Mart - we
we would visit Glenn Hilton Park for picnic bring in hundreds of thousands of visitors
lunches - play on tire-swings and look for every year.
crawdads and other critters in the creek. I What, you may ask, brings those people
Alexander County native and tourism
professional explains why it’s good to stay home.
By Sarah Davis
to our area? A huge part of that answer Standard Oyster Company) but owns and
is furniture but we find ourselves blessed distills North Carolina’s first Bourbon since
with a great location in North Carolina Prohibition. Seventeen-Twelve Spirits in
located on a major interstate as well as Conover is taking the distilling world by
major highway. We offer visitors a break, storm and popping up in liquor stores and
a stop over, and a hospitable welcome restaurants throughout NC and beyond.
with our big city amenities and small town This is where I tell you that for you to
charm. understand just how truly special these
Being a part of this industry I am constantly things are to our area - you have to go out
learning new things about this area I call an experience them for yourself. This is
home. I am sure you know who the Hickory where I charge you to get out and explore.
Crawdads are… however, did you know Take a “stay-cation.” It is important for
that we are only 1 of 9 communities in NC you to invest in your own communities
to have a minor league baseball team? and support these local business like OHB
Everyone loves a good microbrew these & 1712 Spirits. Hike Baker’s Mountain,
days and it seems like there are breweries bass fish on Lake Hickory or the “River” as
popping up everywhere but did you know we call it in my part of Alexander County.
that Old Hickory Brewery (OHB) was When you finally start to immerse yourself
one of the first microbreweries to open in what’s going on in your own backyard
its doors in North Carolina? Opening in you start to see just how unique and
1994 Jason Yates & Steven Lyerly began special this place really is. It’s what called
brewing before brewing was cool. me home, makes me excited to work here
And lastly, let’s not forget the young and what keeps me here to this day.
distiller, Zach Cranford: a long time
Hickory resident, that not only owns and **Check out the Hickory Metro Convention Center &
operates Hickory’s favorite oyster bar (The Visitors Bureau for things to do in the Hickory Metro
and the 3rd Annuakathy.email@example.com 31 Days
of May Celebration. Celebrating Tourism the entire
month of May!
Written by Carmen Eckard. Photography by Jon Eckard
It starts in the ground, like so many of the good things in our hills. Catawba County
Pottery begins with our particular variety of clay, dug from river beds and banks. From
the first step, the process is wrought with tradition. Milling the clay is tedious, hard
work that lays the foundation for beautiful pots. Here, potter Kim Ellington inspects his
clay before beginning a new pot.
Kim Ellington has invited us into his shop to He smiles and picks up a piece sitting on the
shelf. He points to the varied patterns of the glaze
watch and talk with him as he throws pots, and with obvious delight. This is a rare form of pottery
it’s a delight to behold. where nature hasn’t been squeezed out of the
Kim’s love of pottery is apparent. As he talks process, and her addition is lovely.
about pottery, he breaks into a bright and
endearing smile. He is proud to be part of this The Past
long tradition, and his meticulous yet intuitive
style will leave an indelible mark on the legacy Pottery in the Catawba Valley was a utilitarian craft
of our valley. long before it was considered an art. Pots, jugs,
Our particular traditional pottery style has been churns, and pitchers were made to be used. They
handed down, artisan to artisan, for 200 years. The stored whiskey, molasses, and milk.
forms of these pieces are
extremely identifiable. In the early
Our earliest potters used nineteenth century,
a lead glaze, but once the first celebrated
it became known that potter, Daniel Seagle,
lead was dangerous, began perfecting his
our potters developed craft. He became well
new methods of glazing. known for a method
Catawba Valley Pottery of decoration called
is known and valued the ”glass runs.” To
world over for its alkaline achieve the look
glazes. Alkaline glazes he wanted, he
are made from simple embedded bits of
ingredients like ash and glass around the rims
glass. or in the handles of
To d a y, s c i e n t i f i c his pottery. During
methods allow studio the firing process,
potters the world over these melted and
to precisely control the combined with the
color and texture of glaze in beautiful and
their glaze. To have this unexpected ways.
control, every ingredient His children and their
of the glaze must be children continued
carefully measured and the tradition after
quantified. his death and were
This simply isn’t possible with the glazes used joined by a great
here. Ash, one of the primary ingredients, comes many German settlers among others.
from burned wood. The wood, it turns out, The Hilton family has been making Catawba
matters a lot. And wood really can’t be precisely Valley Pottery for 5 generations. Beginning with
measured or quantified. John Wesley Helton’s business started in the
As Kim tells me, too many things factor into the mid-1800s, and continuing through to B.R. and
wood. Heather Hilton who are currently working potters,
”What kind of tree was it? How old is it? Did it the family has always been an important part of
have a happy life?” our pottery traditions.
26 Propsts, Ritchies, Hartsoes, Kennedies, and a
host of other potters crafted useful, gorgeous
pots for many generations. Their work fills the
collections of many people around the world makers of the day, selling tremendous amounts
and is renowned for its beauty. of utilitarian wares with their own unique style.
The Reinhardt family Perhaps most importantly, the Reinhardt family
left their footprints
in our history as well. trained a young Burlon Craig.
Their pieces are still After his stint in the military,
highly sought after Burlon Craig purchased the
by collectors. By complex and continued to hone
the 1930s, Harvey his craft.
Reinhardt had built As plastic and glass became
a pottery complex, more easily accessible, the need
including a pottery for utilitarian pottery vanished,
wheel, which added and if it weren’t for Burlon, who
to the groundhog supported himself with a job
kiln used by Samuel in the furniture industry, the
Propst and another tradition would have died out.
potter named Jim But, he made pots for decades.
Lynn. The complex And he stayed incredibly true to
also included a traditional methods. Burlon used
pugmill, used to mill a treadle wheel, powered by his
the clay. A hammer left foot, until he was well into his eighties. In fact,
mill was also on site, which used the power of a the only change Burlon made from the traditional
creek to crush glass for glaze. ways to replace to mule needed for the pugmill
The Reinhardts were the premiere pottery with a tractor engine.
An aerial shot of the mill burning in 1977, provided by the author.
Bud Rudisill, the last resident (and Anita’s dad) sits on his porch in the early
2000’s. Photo courtesy of Jeffrey Wilhelm.
He was prolific, turning more than
enough pots to fill the needs of
In addition to the useful wares
he made, Burlon also became
famous for face jugs, which
are whimsical creations with a
descriptive title. A face is applied
to a jug-a simple concept, but
Burlon took pottery with faces
further than any other potter
before him. He added these
faces to a whole host of items,
including birdhouses, wall
pockets, chamber pots, spitoons,
and lidded jars. He also made
wig stands, although they are
tremendously rare. Burlon has
been known to make face jugs
as large as twelve gallons, a feat
no one else had attempted to
At the time he began making
face jugs, Burlon said that he
thought most potters made
them; there just wasn’t much
use for them. But as the need for
pottery decreased, the desire for
whimsy increased, and now these face jugs are among the most valuable items in many people’s
Burlon Craig also helped popularize another Catawba Valley traditional style of pottery: Swirlware.
This pottery is formed from two varying colors of clay, blended together carefully before throwing.
Many working potters now are still using this recognizable style, and branching out by using varied
colors of clay and new techniques.
Slowly but surely, people stopped seeing Burlon Craig as the man who could throw you a pot to
put your molasses in and started to see him as a brilliant artist. With this came many recognitions.
By the 1980s, Burlon Craig had several pieces added to the collection of the Smithsonian. He also
received the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship. The pottery complex
was listed on the historic registry in 2008, as it was used by a great many of our region’s best folk
potters, like the Propsts, Reinhardts, and Craigs (Burlon, his son Don and his grandson Dwayne).
But just as important as the pottery Burlon created are the lessons he taught. Many of our finest
potters have been trained by Burlon, like Kim Ellington.
The relationship between master and apprentice is a time-honored and effective way to pass on
artistic skill sets. Truly, the world is better because Burlon Craig shared his talents in this manner.
Over many years, he taught Kim Ellington how to use the traditional methods, just as the Reinhardt
family taught him. But as he did with all potters he worked Elevation and ground plan for the Groundhog Kiln
with, he also shared the sentiment that each potter must find built by the Reinhardts and used by Burlon Craig.
his own methods. This relationship was enduring, and for
many years, Kim Ellington and others participated in Burlon’s
The groundhog kiln at right is a drawing of the kiln built by
the Reinhardts. Wood-firing is a very important step in our
traditional pottery making. Electric kilns, while nice for studio
potters, don’t fit the work flow, or even the actual pieces
thrown in our valley. Groundhog kilns are large, fitting about
500 pieces per firing. This is because the firings are long and
labor intensive...it’s much better to only have a few in the
course of a year.
Burlon liked to start stoking his fire about ten in the morning.
This gave him a full day to get the kiln to what he called
”blasting off time.” Then, for eight to ten hours he and his
helpers would add wood every few minutes until the pieces
were perfectly fired.
In his later years, Burlon sold out the contents of each firing
within minutes, which caused the value of his wares to increase
dramatically. Humble to the end of his life, Burlon said, ”I don’t
consider myself an artist. I’m an old farmer that makes some
pottery, that’s what I am.”
In Burlon’s Words Swirlware!
Scan this QR code to watch Scan this QR code to see how
Burlon talk about pottery. Catawba Valley Swirlware is made.
Kim Ellington is quite like a rolling stone...you won’t find moss
on him. He is curious, and that’s the mark of a great artist.
He tells me how to make the glaze. Burlon taught him the
recipe. It’s apparent that he feels honored.
The glaze is made of only three ingredients: ash, ground
glass, and slip, which is watery clay. These three ingredients
produce a lovely yet slightly unpredictable glaze.
Folklorist John Burrison says of the glaze that it ”seems to
distill the rustic spirit of the frontier, and speaks eloquently, if
humbly, of molasses, moonshine whiskey, buttermilk and salt-
cured foods that were staples of Southern
Kim Ellington tells us of variations to the ”He who works with his hands and
recipe that have been used throughout his head and his heart is an artist.”
our history. His knowledge is vast. He
talks about cinders, a byproduct of iron Francis Of Assisi
smelting. For many years, iron smelting
in the region left huge mounds of
cinder. Some of this was useless, but
some of it formed in a honeycomb
pattern. Local potters quickly realized
that the honeycombed cinder could be
crushed and added to glaze for beautiful
variations. For decades, this was the
preferred method of glazing, until the
cinders ran out. Once the iron smelting
industry ended, potters sifted through the
mounds until no usable pieces remained.
Kim tells me that a conversation with his
neighbor led to a breakthrough for him.
It’s important to note that Kim’s shop is
in Vale, a small town so well known for
pottery that it was called Jugtown for
many years. Most of the major potters
in our history have come from this strip
of land far removed from the bustle of
Hickory or Charlotte. He was talking
with his neighbor who had lived in Vale
her whole life. She asked him if he ever
looked for hematite. Curious, he told her
no but asked why she asked. She told a
story of her youth when the Reinhardt
family paid her to search for hematite, a
black stone. She would find one coffee
can full, which she said was enough for
one batch of glaze.
Kim realized that the Reinhardts were
using the hematite as a replacement for cinders, and he was able to use that information, along
with science knowledge, to create beautiful patterns in his work. His work tends to stay away from
the natural green color many of our pots have, leaning on the use of glass and iron to give his pots
extra gorgeous details.
In the pictures on this page, Kim works on his pottery wheel. His space reflects his work: close to
the earth. Natural. Unassuming. His walls are coated with tiny bits of clay, spun off his wheel from
thousands of pots. Shelves line the walls, each covered with finished pots, jugs, bowls and more.
His own groundhog kiln is visible in the background. It’s quite like Burlon’s, but true to his style, Kim
Ellington added a few twists of his own when he built his kiln in 1999. He increased the height for
stacking space, added side stoking holes for more even temperature and tapered the rear of the
kiln to the chimney. Kim uses yellow pine when he fires, and typically a firing cycle runs 18 hours.
I assumed that he would use the ash from the firings as the base ingredient for his glaze, but I was wrong.
He says that in the beginning, he did. But his glaze was lumpy, and he didn’t care for it. In his studies, he
happened upon a sentence that changed the way he did things...the sentence said, simply, that pine ash
caused gritty glaze. A simple switch to a different kind of ash solved his problems.
His pieces remind me of the way Doc Watson described his own musical style: traditional plus. His curiosity
allows him to constantly improve the quality of his work while honoring the Catawba Valley traditions.
Kim’s work is featured in museums and
collections nationwide. The glazes on his
pieces are considered the best in the nation.
An exceptional and enormous pot of Kim’s
is on display at the Friends of Hickory Park
in Downtown Hickory, and it’s worth a trip
But he isn’t the only person carrying on these
”I’ve always thought that pottery, of all the art forms, is Charles Lisk moved to our valley from
the one that most completely combines my love of form Seagrove in the early 80s. He quickly formed
and shape and beauty and art with the earth. Even as a a friendship with Burlon Craig, who taught
very young man, I recognized that digging clay from the him the ways Catawba Valley pottery was
ground and using it to create art is a very good melding different from the Seagrove style he was
accustomed to. It didn’t take long for him
of important interests of mine.” to build his own groundhog kiln and take up
-Robert Oren Eades, Pottery Collector our traditions.
Over 50 potters are taking the vast
knowledge assembled in our region and
using it to create new and exciting pieces.
Some remain quite true to our history, while
others use our history as a jumping off point
to create something entirely new.
Michael Ball, for instance, has taken the face
jug concept and explored other directions it
could take him. His body of work includes
many forms with eyeballs or mouths. His
traditional face jugs are more detailed and
realistic than most Catawba Valley Potters.
Other notable working potters in the region
include: Michel Bayne, Steve Abee, Walter
Fleming, Albert Hodge, Joe Reinhardt,
Richard Wright, BR Hilton, Heather Hilton,
Gary Mitchell, and Roger Hicks, among
Kim Ellington hosts two to three kiln openings a year at his shop
in Vale. He also participates in the Catawba Valley Pottery Festival
each March at the Hickory Metro Convention Center, as well as the
Potters Market Invitational hosted by the Mint Museum in Charlotte.
His website is www.ellingtonpottery.com and you can email him to
be included on his lists of sale notices. QR code will take you to an
excellent episode of UNCTV’s Folkways that features Kim Ellington.
Photo and pottery by Kim Ellington.
This is the door to Kim Ellington’s
shop. Inside, you can see him
examining a piece he’s making.
His attention to detail is excellent,
and the pride he takes in his work is
His work is featured in the collections
of Museum of International Folk Art,
Hickory Museum of Art, Crocker
Museum of Art, The Baron and
Ellin Gordon Art Galleries, Mint
Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina
Museum of History, North Carolina
Pottery Center, Visual Arts Center at
North Carolina State University, and
Everson Museum of Art.
To delve deeper into
our pottery history, we
Turners and Burners: The Folk
Potters of North Carolina by
Valley Ablaze. Pottery Tradition
in the Catawba Valley by Jason
Harpe and Brian Dedmond
Potters of the Catawba Valley
of North Carolina by Ceramic
Circle of Charlotte.
Burlon Craig’s Legacy
By Richard Eller. Photography by Jon Eckard.
Imagine a timeline of pottery-making in the Catawba Valley as an hourglass. At the top were many
crafters who turned clay into churns, bowls, and jugs. The pots of Daniel Seagle are held as the oldest
to still exist, but the flood of Germans into the region in the mid 18th century meant many others
created jars and jugs before and during Seagle’s time. Early pots followed a utilitarian tradition with
little ornamentation and were predominately for food storage.
Once mass consumerism of the 1920’s made glass, and ultimately plastic, the vessel of choice for
storing items, the need for pottery dwindled. Fortuitously, a man named Burlon Craig bought the
farm of an earlier pottery family named Reinhardt, and he began throwing pots, but only as a sideline.
He worked daily in the furniture industry. He kept up the potting tradition, virtually singlehandedly,
for 25 years. As the only practicing potter in the area his work forms the neck of the hourglass.
With the 1970’s came a renewed interest in the Catawba Valley potting tradition, not as a means of
storage, but as art form. A folk revival brought a wave of cultural historians and apprentices seeking
Burlon Craig to study his methods. Since, the practice has grown into an industry with collectors,
shows, and a new generations of fans, all part of the rebirth. The bottom of the hourglass is full with a
wide variety of clay-crafted ceramics that once again strengthens and supports the tradition.
Arie Reinhardt Taylor
A Folk Artist Recreating Memories
By Carmen Eckard
Arie Reinhardt Taylor
Arie has spent her life helping preserve the memories and history of the
Catawba Valley, where she grew up. Born in 1921, she has amassed a lot of
I’m sitting in her living room, and I’m enthralled at the memories she carries.
She is a story teller, but instead of words, she uses her paint brush. For almost a
century, she’s watched the changes that have crept across our land. Some changes
are wonderful...for instance, she seems truly happy that she doesn’t have to
pick cotton anymore. Others less so...it’s hard to watch as traditions slip away.
Arie Taylor comes from a family of influential people. She lives in Vale,
on the same land that her mother was raised. Her mother was Minnie
Reinhardt, a famous folk painter of her own right, and the Reinhardts
have been an established family in those parts as early as the 1850s.
Arie Taylor has been an artist as long as she can remember, and she tells me
of art projects in elementary
school. Once her teacher
asked her to stay to help
paint a project and she stayed
so long that darkness fell and
her dad came looking for her.
She painted long before her
mother, and her style is much
more polished, although
the family resemblance is
Arie paints the things she
remembers, and the things
that stand out as important
to her. These include many
rural scenes, like picking
cotton, making moonshine,
local potters, Banoak school,
Corinth Church, and traveling
in wagons. The family farm is
often featured. Most of her
work reflects the world as it
was in the 1920s and 30s.
“I hope in some way I can
bring back a memory to
someone of their past,” she
said. “A part of that life
is gone forever and only
footprints are left behind.
My footprints are my
But she’s doing more than
bringing back memories.
She’s recreating a world
that doesn’t exist. She’s
able to share the world,
as she knew it, with
people who weren’t
there to witness it.
I’ve never lived in a
time without electricity.
I barely remember how
to function without the
internet. The world that
Arie is able to show me
brings the history books
I’ve read to life. She’s
giving me an actual understanding of the way things were, and that’s valuable
and beautiful. I’m very grateful, and I know that many others echo my sentiment.
The Hickory Museum of Art features some of Arie’s work, and their galleria
sells both original paintings and prints. You can also find Arie’s prints many
places online as well. The volume of her work is impressive. She tells me
she’s painted at least one thousand paintings, each whispering of the past.
Arie’s artistic talent is in her blood, and she’s passed it onto her daughter,
Audrey Sherrill. Audrey is a successful portrait artist.
Arie has stopped
only in the last
few years, as
it became too
painful. Not one
to enjoy idleness,
s h e ’s t a k e n u p
she’s quite good.
It reminds me of an
expression I heard
once: ”artists need
to art.” It’s clear
that Arie needs
to art, and the
come after her
owe her a debt of
M O U N TA I N
WITH GRANNY ECKARD
Granny Eckard shares stories and memories of growing up at
the base of Baker’s Mountain while it was still quite isolated.
Grandma’s Spring Box
Way back, before the ice man came with his blocks of ice
to personally deliver to our ice box on the back porch, even
before the idea of an ice box came to the south side of Bakers
Mountain, Grandma had a spring box. This was a necessity
for keeping the family’s milk and butter cool.
Grandma milked her gentle jersey cow every morning and
evening. After straining the milk through a clean white
cloth into an earthenware crock, she covered the crock with
another white cloth tied securely around the top with a
string. She then delivered it down the hill to her spring box.
The spring box was a rectangular wooden box probably made
from rough-sewn oak. Hers was about eighteen inches deep,
maybe thirty six inches long. The bottom was open to allow
the water to run freely through the trough, and this box
had to have a hinged lid to keep out curious raccoons and
possums. Usually she would have several crocks of milk or
buttermilk and some butter staying cool in that box.
The box was positioned in the spring drain a short distance
from the spring that furnished the family’s drinking water. The
spring was the headwater of the spring drain, that became the
creek, that became the stream, that further on down the hollow
became the water supply for the cows and Grandpa’s mules.
After REA brought electricity in 1950, Grandpa installed
a pump in the spring to supply water to the new kitchen
sink. Now Grandma could have cold water with just a turn
of the handle. They later purchased a house across the road
and bought a fancy new refrigerator. To my grandparent’s
generation, electricity provided opportunity, while that old
spring box rotted and returned to nature.
By Richard Eller
Drive by Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Glendale Springs and you are liable to see
people walking in at any hour of the day, sometime by the bus load. Are these pilgrims
attending service? Seeking spiritual renewal? Folks curious about why others are
flocking there? Yes to all of these questions, but they are also drawn to the work of
Ben Long IV, a now renowned painter of frescos depicting biblical scenes. Some finer
examples of Long’s early work reside in this and other mountain churches.
It actually began at a cocktail party. Painter Philip Moose introduced Faulton Hodge,
the newly assigned priest to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in West Jefferson, to Ben
Long, suggesting that Long was “looking for a place to make a fresco and would he
[Hodge] like to have one?” According to Long, Father Hodge quickly replied, “Sure, I
would love to have a fresco.” Then he asked, “What’s a fresco?”
Dating back 4,000 years, the word “fresco” comes from the Italian word for “wet,”
which is how the paint is applied, so the colors sink into the wall, going deeper than
possible in a canvas painting. Using a wall as the surface for the work allows for large
and impressive works that capture subjects life-sized with an “Old World” feel.
“My wife was pregnant at the time, so I had a ready model,” said Ben Long as he
planned his first work. “I used the heads and hands and feet of a young lady who
was, at the time, I believe, going to Appalachian and worked at Pizza Hut.” That first
fresco is still a feature of St. Mary’s. Long observed, “We tried out something equally as
controversial as the work Faulton Hodge commissioned, which was a pregnant virgin.”
Representing a very pregnant Mary is unique. It is thought that such a depiction is only
one of three works of art in the world, the other two in Germany.
“Mary Great With Child,” created in 1974, was the first fresco to grace the walls of
the church, but was not a true fresco since it was painted within a frame and then
mounted to the wall. According to Long, that was in case the work “didn’t go over.”
It was followed the next year by another life-sized image titled, “John the Baptist in
the Wilderness.” A full walled depiction of Jesus ascending from the cross called “The
Mystery of Faith” serves as a
backdrop to the alter. It was
completed in 1977.
As each was painted, Long 45
worked during church services.
One parishioner said that
“church went on as usual, but
everybody kept an eye on
what Ben was doing.” He also
answered the questions of
people who came up to talk
while he painted during non-
church service times. After
adorning St. Mary’s Episcopal
Church with three works of
art, Ben Long jokingly asked
Father Faulton, “Do you have
any more churches?” to which the ever- the wall and wrote a check on the spot, a
energetic priest answered that he did. situation Long called, “a moment of divine
One of the churches was, as Long intervention.”
described it, “Just waiting to find it’s time The summer of 1980 saw a collection of
to be torn down.” Long suggested the unique individuals visit Holy Trinity. Ben
construction of a wall to not only serve as Long gathered a group of young artists so
the canvas but to support the structure, that he could teach the technique of fresco
thereby saving the structure. As they painting. In addition, Long “used the locals
stood inside Holy Trinity Episcopal as models, anybody who wandered in that
Church, neither had an idea of how seemed to fit the bill.” He added, “There
they would pay for the wall, but as they were certainly a lot of characters around in
talked, according to Long, a man stood those days.” The locals became the faces
on the sidelines listening. He spoke up, of the twelve disciples in Long’s original
saying he would pay for the building of interpretation of “The Last Supper.”
Since then, Long has painted both “Choose a Job to
sacred and secular subjects. In nearby Transport your Career”
Wilkesboro, he painted the Apostle
Paul in two scenes: Paul’s Damascus Transportation Insight is Hiring!
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early works in the “Churches of the grow and learn, positive attitude, dependability,
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who come as Pilgrims, partially
because many have been there more
than once. Deacon Shirley Long
called the circumstances “A God-
incidence,” referring to the fact that
when Ben Long first looked for a place
to paint his frescos, most churches
refused the offer. However, when
Faulton Hodge jumped at the chance
to host Long’s artistic experiment, a
profound moment created works of art
offering comfort and contemplation
in the North Carolina mountains for
generations to come.
Trade Alley Art
Trade Alley Art, LLC, officially opened its doors on September 11, 2017 and held its grand opening Friday,
October 20th with over 400 visitors. The newest art gallery in downtown Hickory, Trade Alley Art has
enjoyed a resounding “Welcome” from everyone who has had an opportunity to visit, especially residents
of Hickory and surrounding areas.
Trade Alley Art is a cooperative gallery formed by a group of local artists and artisans. Evan Ellis-Raymer is
the business manager and a member artist at Trade Alley Art. He feels the gallery advances several goals
for the arts community. Some of these include promoting local artists, working with other local arts groups,
and collaborating with Catawba Arts Council and the Hickory Museum of Art. Evan feels Trade Alley can
work with these organizations to promote a common mission - to help make Hickory, NC a destination
for those seeking fine art. “Why drive to Asheville or Blowing Rock when you can find quality art here?”
Pat Flachbart is one of the founding member artists of Trade Alley and an art instructor in the Personal
Enrichment Program at Catawba Valley Community College. For over fifteen years, Pat thought Hickory
needed a cooperative artist group gallery. She feels the gallery works best as a member supported place
where everyone shares equally in expenses, staffing, and coordinating,
The gallery opened with 24 artists working in a number of media including acrylic, oil, gouache, watercolor,
alcohol ink, sculpture, pottery, digital art, glass, jewelry, textiles and furniture. There is space for 26
artists, with new members selected by a juried com\and based on needs of the gallery for diversity of art.
Currently, Trade Alley has a waiting list of artists.
Member artists may change out art monthly but up to 30 percent of their portfolio is cycled out every
other month when they rotate their spaces. This keeps the gallery fresh and interesting according to Jim
Raymer, the general manager for Trade Alley Art. The goal of TAA is to keep it a fine-art gallery that is not
overly populated so we can
display the art appropriately
One of the goals for the group
is to find corporate sponsors
to help the gallery continue
to grow and promote the
community for the arts.
Trade Alley Art is located
at 25 Second St., NW, in
downtown Hickory next to
Taste Full Beans Gallery hours
are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-
For more information, call
828-578-1706 or 828-578-
1012, or visit their website,
”Twins” at left by Amy
”Summer” at right by Meg
Hunter Seagle is an artist local to the foothills. Speagle earned a
Bachelor of Fine Arts from Savannah [GA] College of Art and Design
in 2005 and then a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual
Arts in New York City in 2012. His one man show will be at the
Hickory Museum of Art from May 5-August 5. This piece is titled