Potters in Jackson County – Made in the Mountains: Artisans in Jackson County, NC

Made in the Mountains: Artisans from Jackson County, NC

From wood-fired to traditional Cherokee pottery, face jugs to raku beads, Jackson County, North Carolina, is saturated with potters that channel the beauty of the Western North Carolina Mountains into their work. The potters that call Jackson County home are masters of their craft. Below, we would like to introduce you to a few of the personalities that can be found throwing the wheel or firing the kiln around the towns of Cashiers, Cherokee and Dillsboro.

Firemoss Pottery, Cashiers | Justin Allman


Ceramic artist Justin Allman fuses Japanese pottery art—woodcuts and tattoos—with influence from modern North Carolina ceramic art. He carves imagery of the mountains, of flowing lines that resemble waves, clouds, flowers or elements of nature, then throws and hand builds pots. His creative visions transform into ceramic art that is both visual and functional such as bowls, vases and pitchers. Firemoss is a great place to stop in and grab a piece of the mountains to take home with you!

Joel Queen Gallery, Cherokee

Joel Queen is a ninth-generation potter, who traces his pottery lineage through the Bigmeat family in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. His studio offers five styles of pottery including the black pottery, which is the most traditional: hand-built, hand-polished and hand-fired in an open pit. Joel also revived stamped pottery, the oldest of the Cherokee pottery traditions where pots are hand coiled, burnished, and fired in an open pit at high temperatures, using methods that render them waterproof. While Joel continues to preserve the traditions of Cherokee pottery, he also blends contemporary and traditional designs, like adding pieces of turquoise and coral. Joel is an artist of many trades. In addition to pottery, Joel also enjoys sculpting and wood carving.

Rabbit Creek Pottery, Dillsboro | Anne Burrell


The owner of Rabbit Creek Pottery, Anne Burrell, is inspired by fairies, folklore and dreams. Her working pottery studio draws a group of artists that forge creations from clay, metal, natural fibers, and miscellaneous knick knacks. Visit the intimate gallery space to find treasures crafted by her artists, showcasing a mixture of functional pottery alongside one-of-a-kind pieces, such as mushroom fairy houses, honey pots, green man masks, flower vases, fairy lamps and nightlights.

Riverwood Pottery, Dillsboro | The Barnes Family


Riverwood Pottery started as an idea of a working studio and gallery open to the public by Dr Ralph Morgan in 1973. In 1995, Brant and Karen Barnes took over operation, and their daughter Zan grew up in the studio before leaving to obtain her Masters of Fine Arts in Ceramics at the University of North Texas. Now, Zan has returned and the family’s open studio and gallery displays each of the Barnes family’s unique style of pottery. Brant’s vases, bowls and plates are adorned with flowers and colored in earth tones.  Karen makes humorous face jugs—angry faces, goofy faces, big toothed smiles—and colorful Raku beads. Zan uses the soda-fired method, which has the distinctive orange peel texture on the surface of her functional pottery.

Tree House Pottery, Dillsboro | Joe Frank McKee

Joe Frank McKee is the man behind Tree House Pottery, a gallery and open studio in Dillsboro. His focus is on horsehair pottery, a method that fires hairs (from horses, yes) onto the surface to create jagged lines. Joe fires his pieces with black and red coloring, a different approach than traditional horsehair pieces. His decorative lines are more creative and artistic, while his functional work keep him in touch with his everyday customers, who enjoy his colorful pots, bowls, and beer steins.

WNC Pottery Festival

For a special chance to meet some of Jackson County’s potters in-person, in addition to renowned potters from across the country, mark your calendars to join us for the WNC Pottery Festival, happening the first weekend in December. A gathering of around 40 potters come to Dillsboro to showcase their work and participate in demos. Jackson County’s own Joe Frank McKee of Tree House Pottery is co-founder for the event, and can tout the incredible talent that shows at the festival each year. “I can’t speak enough about the quality of potters that we have. It’s always a top-notch festival with unique, original work.”


You’ll also find his work, along with Riverwood Pottery, among the displays during the festival. Find more information at www.wncpotteryfestival.com