Before retiring in 2013, Neolia Cole, the eighty-six year old daughter of potter Arthur Ray Cole, was first to arrive and last to leave the Cole's Pottery shop. She possesses the indomitable spirit that has kept a Cole in pottery-making for more than two centuries. Once when asked how much pottery was produced by Cole's Pottery in a year's time, Neolia answered by saying instead how much income a year's sales represented. Despite the fact that Cole's Pottery charged very little for the wares made there, the annual sum collected in a year was considerable. Wielding a sly grin, Neolia unashamedly conceded, "And it's just dirt!" In a way, pottery is just dirt. But collectors and lovers of the art form know that much more than dirt contributed to the incomparable successes of North Carolina's early twentieth-century art potteries. It's a success story marked by adaptation, innovation, collaboration, and immensely hard work - a legacy that endures today.
Following his introduction to North Carolina's pottery scene while working as a small town newspaper photographer in the 1970s, Stephen C. Compton was on the path to becoming one of the region's top pottery collectors and noted experts on the subject. An eighth generation North Carolinian, Steve's interests include the state's 18th and 19th century earthenware and stoneware traditions, as well as its early to mid-20th century art potteries, and how these traditions inform the work of hundreds of the state's contemporary clay artists today.