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The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia showcases the handcraft skills of one of the South's premier grassroots art forms, and explores the historical importance and changing role of folk pottery in southern life.

face jug Northeast Georgia's pottery tradition is nationally known. The Meaders family of White County was featured in Allen Eaton's 1937 book, Handicrafts of the Southern Highlands, and was honored with a special event at the Library of Congress in 1978, when the Smithsonian Institution's documentary film on the Meaders Pottery was released.
Shown here is a Lanier Meaders face jug.

In the year 2000, northeast Georgia received a Library of Congress "Local Legacies" designation for its pottery heritage. The tradition also has been featured in magazines, books, videos, exhibits, and festivals such as the Southern Crossroads Marketplace at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.

museum photo Until now there's been no institution devoted to Northeast Georgia folk pottery, not even in its home area. Dean and Kay Swanson, former owners of the Standard Telephone Company, have committed to erect this museum as their way of giving back to the people of the area. Collector and folk potter Michael Crocker helped assemble the core collection.

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Museum Brochure

View or download our brochure.

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FPM Project Team

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Chris Brooks, Founding Director
Brubaker Inc., Exhibit Design
Robert M. Cain, Architect
Jim Johnston, Project Coordinator
Chris Swanson, Project Photographer
John A. Burrison, Ph.D., Curator
Michael A. Crocker, Co-Curator
Dean and Kay Swanson, Patrons
Sally Welborn - Admin Assistant

Photos by Rob Karosis, copyright © 2007 Rob Karosis. All rights reserved
Photo credits: David Greear Silver Image Studio

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Brown's Guide to Georgia

Many of the folk potters exhibited in our museum are shown on the Folk Potters Trail of Northeast Georgia Map.
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In addition the director of the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia provides the names of retail stores in the northeast Georgia region that sell locally produced pottery, and those are included at the end of his tours, along with addresses and contact information. They are also on the tour map. The Folk Pottery Museum also sells pottery in the Museum Shop.

FPM in the News

The Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in the beautiful Sautee-Nacoochee valley in White County has been awarded a prestigious South Atlantic Region American Institute of Architects Merit Award for Excellence in Architecture. This is the second national design award given this unique museum --- it also took one of only two Honor Awards given in 2008 by AIA-Georgia. The Honor Award is the highest design recognition given by the American Institute of Architects and acknowledges recently completed "architecture of distinction". In its fifth cycle of recognition of outstanding architectural design, worldwide, the museum has been cited by the World Architecture Community, a consortium comprised of internationally recognized architects, leaders and educators from all over the world and the US. Opened in September of 2006, the museum is the result of the vision and generosity of benefactors Dean and Kay Swanson of Cornelia, former owners of the Standard Telephone Company who committed to erect this museum as their way of giving back to the people of the area. The Swansons assembled a team of designers, contractors and consultants who worked diligently to realize the design of the architect, Robert M. Cain of Atlanta, Georgia.

The Northeast Georgia Folk Pottery Museum and its extensive collection of pottery dating from the 1840s will be a gift from Dean and Kay Swanson, retired community and business leaders who want to preserve their treasures and share them with all who can enjoy and learn from them. The Swansons had a modest home collection of pottery in 1999, when they visited with potter and local historian Michael Crocker at his studio and were inspired to expand their interests in the folk art tradition. At Michael Crocker's suggestion, the Swansons acquired a significant private collection of 40 items that led them to build the present inventory of more than 150 pieces.

A major reason to build the Folk Pottery Museum is to provide a space where all these items can be seen at one time, complemented by audio-visual presentations, programs, demonstrations by local potters, seminars and special tours. Dr. John Burrison, Georgia State University folklorist and author of 1983's "Brothers in Clay: the Story of Georgia Folk Pottery," serves as Curator of the Swanson collection and the new Museum. He notes that "Northeast Georgia is one of the few areas of the United States with a living, and thriving, tradition of folk pottery, one that increasingly attracts the interest of folk-art collectors and scholars. The Museum will interpret both the artistic and historic dimensions of this heritage, offering a unique understanding of the importance of craftsmanship in the lives of ordinary Southerners of both the past and present."

According to Dr. Burrison's research, north Georgia's pottery tradition was, and still is, concentrated in two communities near the Sautee-Nacoochee Valley location of the new Museum: Mossy Creek south of Cleveland in White County and Gillsville, just north of Gainesville. Mossy Creek has been home to more than eighty folk potters since the 1820s. Foremost among them are Cheever and Lanier Meaders, who carried on the 19th-century tradition of ash- and lime-glazed stoneware. Lanier became nationally famous in the 1970s for his face jugs, and his success encouraged other north Georgians with traditional pottery backgrounds to return to the craft. Visitors enthused after a visit to the Folk Pottery Museum will find a variety of shops and galleries nearby to follow up their interests.

"Education and preservation are our main goals," says Museum benefactor Kay Swanson, who fondly recalls her first exposure to northeast Georgia folk potters as a child while accompanying her dad on what he called "over the mountain rambles" in his 1939 Dodge. "Sometimes we take for granted that these things will be here for our grandchildren," she concludes, "and we shouldn't."

The SNCA staff developed the Folk Potters Trail brochure to coincide with the opening of the Folk Pottery Museum in September 2006, and connect visitors with the living tradition of northeast Georgia ceramics. A charitable effort by the museum and SNCA, the brochure leads hundreds of interested collectors to the shops of folk potters. The Folk Potters Trail was featured in National Geographic Traveler Magazine in April, 2008. The magazine featured a geotourism mapguide to Appalachia featuring two driving trails from each of 13 states. Georgia's contributions were the Chieftains Trail in the northwest and our own Folk Potters Trail in northeast Georgia. The trail brochure is available on the museum website.