Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Trip to Gillsville

When we decided to move to Gainesville, it wasn't exactly unfamiliar territory to us. Brent grew up spending many summer days on Lake Lanier. I grew up coming to family reunions in rural Hall County. Three of my grandparents were from Hall County, and the fourth lived here after she was married. So this area could accurately be described as our family "stomping grounds." However, in the year we've been here, we had yet to visit the areas where they grew up. Last weekend, Uncle Hugh was in town, and we were able to go with him to Gillsville, where he and my Grandy grew up.

There is a small pottery in Gillsville that is run by a family that Uncle Hugh and Grandy knew growing up. Last year when he visited, he stopped by Hewell's, and one of his childhood friends recognized him immediately. They had a fun time remembering together, and we decided that this year we would all go to their annual "Turning and Burning" festival. This is apparently a very big yearly event, complete with pottery making, corn grinding, and lots of other demonstrations from days gone by. Sadly, this year they had to scale back due to the economy, but we still enjoyed what we were able to see. It was also nice not to have 5,000 other folks there at the same time.

We arrived Saturday morning, and first thing, the boys saw these corn husk mules/ponies.

We walked around the shop, and then headed over to see how they make the pottery. All Hewell pottery is made by hand to this day. The family takes great pride in that, and they are very skilled craftsmen. There is so much history to this place, but I'm afraid I will get it wrong if I try to retell it. I do know they have been potters since the 1850s, and they use clay from a river bed in Madison County.

Here we are walking into the potter's shed to watch him throw a pot.

The boys went inside to watch, and I made pictures through his window. It was amazing to see him take a lump of mud and in just a few minutes, less than five, turn it into a beautiful pot. The spiritual illustrations were beautiful and many, and I look forward to taking the boys back when they can understand it better.

After the pot is ready, it is taken to the shed next door which houses the kiln/oven.
The pots were way back inside this fire, and we could look through the flames to see them being hardened and strengthened. Again, incredible spiritual imagery that I can't wait to share with the boys. The potter did remind the boys of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as we were looking in the furnace. I could see the wheels spinning in Andrew's head as he looked into that fire.
There are lots of different jugs, pitchers, and pots that they make. I thought these little pots were very interesting though. I believe this is what called ash-glazed pottery, but I could very well be (and probably am) wrong on that. I picked out a little pitcher for myself and Meredith (surprise Mer Mer!) with the same glaze.
One of the family members has also recreated a country store from the early part of the 1900s. It was fun to walk in and see what a shopping trip might have looked like for my grandparents when they were young.
The lady standing beside Uncle Hugh is Mrs. Grace. She's the friend who recognized him right off last year. I thought I had gotten a better picture of the two of them, but I didn't. She holds a record for the most pieces turned in a day on their wheel. I think it was right at or just over 1000 pieces of pottery. She also made the little pitchers I chose.
Here's the inside of the store.

Andrew trying his hand at a pump.

Coleman trying on an Amish straw hat.

Uncle Grady, Aunt Judy, and their grandson Gray met us there for the event. We always have such a good time with them! Here are all the boy cousins/nephews/uncles together on the porch.
After we left Hewell's, Uncle Hugh drove us over to the house they lived in in town. We didn't get out, and I didn't make pictures because there were folks sitting on the steps and in the yard. But it is nice to know where it is. We also drove to the family cemetery, the school where they went, and down Bell Road to see where the family farm used to be. It is divided up now and there are several houses on the property. We had a fun morning in the "past" and ended it with a great lunch at Loretta's. Aunt Niti was able to come meet us there. We are just loving being physically close to our families and our roots.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Looks like a very fun trip! I saw a family on tv that made pots with the faces like that. I wonder if it's the same people?