Story by Sandra Davidson
2018 North Carolina Heritage Award recipients Glenn and Lula Bolick have carried many traditions of North Carolina's mountains and piedmont into the 21st century through the pottery and music they've made together for over 50 years. In this special podcast profile, Lula, a fifth-generation potter from Seagrove, NC, and Glenn, a fifth-generation sawmiller from Caldwell County, reflect on their lifetime commitment to preserving and sharing their family traditions.
This episode features music by Phil Cook and the Bolick Family.
If there were such a thing as North Carolina pottery royalty, then Lula Bolick comes from it. The rich piedmont clay that lies just beneath the topsoil drew her family to Seagrove over a hundred years before it was the pottery destination it is today, and Seagrove is North Carolina's most famous pottery community in part because of her family's work. Her great-grandfather founded Seagrove's Owen's Pottery in the late 1800s. But Lula didn't start throwing her own pots until after she married her husband Glenn Bolick. Glenn was born and raised in Bailey's Camp, a mountain community just outside of Blowing Rock.
Glenn grew up surrounded by music, storytelling, and sawmilling. He comes from a long line of craftsmen who've worked timber of the Appalachians as sawmillers since the 1880s.
Glenn and Lula met in the parking lot of a drive-thru grill in 1962. At the time, Lula was working third-shift at a local hosiery factory and Glenn was working at a nearby quarry as a rock crusher. They married several months later.
Glenn learned pottery under the tutelage of Lula's father, who had a booming pottery business in Seagrove. In 1973, Glenn and Lula bought back his family farm in Caldwell County where they moved to start their own pottery business.
"It wasn't easy when we moved here," says Lula. "He worked at a paper mill, sawmills, [and as a] rock crusher down at Lenoir before we actually made it with pottery. We didn't have an already established business. We had to do it ourselves."
Today Glenn and Lula's family farm includes an antique sawmill, a pottery studio and shop, and a stage where they hosted bluegrass jams for years. They have taken their pottery and music to folk festivals and fairs across the state, and today their daughter Janet Calhoun and her husband Michael continue the pottery tradition through their pottery business Traditions.
Glenn, Lula and Janet will perform in their family band at the North Carolina Heritage Awards Ceremony on May 23. Tickets to the North Carolina Heritage Awards are available at here.