Connie Fenner is a local business owner, community connector, and proud breast cancer survivor. She’s committed to supporting orgs that bring people together to create healthier communities, including powering our Go See This series this season. The Ancient Arts Festival is right around the corner, and we invite you to Go See This . . .
Y’all know North Carolina’s got a thing for pottery, and Mark Hewitt Pottery in Pittsboro keeps that tradition alive. Nestled in the scenic landscape of eastern Chatham County, their Holiday Kiln Opening is a celebration of craftsmanship and community. For more than 30 years, these biannual events have been the cornerstone of the Hewitt Pottery journey, a time for holiday sales and the celebration of art. Mark and Carol Hewitt, the “mom and pop” behind this small business, extend a warm invitation to you and yours to come out and view these one-of-a-kind masterpieces–and take home the perfect handmade gift for that special someone.
The massive, wood-burning kiln is the centerpiece of this seasonal affair. It was built by the artist himself long ago, when he was, in his words, “young and dumb, with too much energy.” This impressive structure can hold within its depths between 1,000 and 1,500 unique pieces of varied size, and it’s fired only twice a year. It is, in and of itself, a feat of craftsmanship.
“There’s a history behind having these kiln openings in North Carolina that goes back to the Moravians,” says Mark Hewitt. The Moravian pottery complex in North Carolina was established in the late 18th century near the town of Bethabara, which is now part of Winston-Salem. They crafted a wide range of items, including high-quality earthenware and stoneware jars, jugs, and crocks, using various decorative techniques like slip decoration and sgraffito. It became a significant hub for pottery production in North Carolina and, Hewitt notes, “There are even records of colonial militia men being called in to regulate the unruly pottery buying crowds back in the 1780s.”
The Hewitts take further inspiration from Burlon Craig, an iconic potter from the Catawba Valley. He was known for his expertise in traditional pottery techniques, particularly for his use of a groundhog kiln. Burlon Craig’s kiln openings were legendary events, attracting large crowds eager to purchase his pottery. Mark Hewitt tells of one notable occurrence where Craig “dropped a rope in front of the pottery buyers [to signal the start of the sale]. And on this one occasion, all of the pots were scooped up in 48 seconds! That precedent spurred us to begin having our own kiln openings.”
At heart, Hewitt Pottery is a family-run operation, where every piece is a labor of love. The team, led by the duo of Carol and the maestro behind the kiln, ensures each pot finds its place. For this event, they have enlisted a small but dedicated crew, including Toby Turnbull (a former Pittsboro Elementary school teacher), Laura Pots, and various other part-time helpers. It’s a lot of work to get all the pots out of the kiln, washed down, and placed in the studio barn, priced and organized, but the Hewitt Pottery team is a well-oiled machine.
The kiln opening is not just a sale—it’s an experience. Enthusiasts and loyal patrons flock to be the first in line, drawn by the promise of unique, handcrafted pieces. The event extends over three weekends, beginning on Black Friday, and leading into the Chatham Artists Guild Studio Tour in December. The stage is set, the kiln is ready to reveal its treasures, and Hewitt Pottery eagerly awaits the gathering of enthusiasts, patrons, and lovers of art at this year’s Holiday Kiln Opening.
The Short Version
- Who: Mark and Carol Hewitt
- What: Holiday Kiln Opening at Hewitt Pottery
- Friday, November 24 10-5pm
Saturday, November 25 10-5pm
Sunday, November 26 noon-5pm
Saturday, December 2 10-5pm
Sunday, December 3 noon-5pm
Saturday, December 9 10-5pm
Sunday, December 10 noon-5pm
- Where: 424 Johnny Burke Rd, Pittsboro, NC 27312
- Cost: Free to attend
- Parking: Parking on site
- Accessibility: Showroom accessible by gravel path
- For more info: https://hewittpottery.com/