Local News

Heralded N.C. Potter Dies

Posted February 19, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Thousands of homes in the U.S. and around the world have been brightened by the handiwork of North Carolina potter Nell Cole Graves. Monday the talented woman died at the age of 88.

In May 1996, she had received the prestigious N.C. Folklife Heritage Award in recognition of her significant contributions to the state's cultural heritage. In 1991, the N.C. Folklore Society had presented her with its Brown-Hudson award.

Graves was believed to be the state's oldest potter in Seagrove, and surely she had the longest experience of anyone in the state -- she began turning pots when she was just 3 years old.

Born into a family of professional potters, she produced her first commercial items by the time she was 6. Her father was potter J.B. Cole.

The North Carolina potteries, generally located around the small town of Seagrove, are one of the state's prime tourist sites. Thousands of people drive the country lanes each year, buying dishes, candlestick holders, mugs, vases, birdhouses and other objects formed from the abundant Tar Heel clay.

"Nell Cole Graves has been a monument in the Seagrove pottery community for the past 75 years," said Bill Ivey, president of the Friends of the N.C. Pottery Center.

Graves stationed herself behind the spinning wheel to work the wet clay into shapes ready for the kiln just about every day of her life until Christmas, when she suffered a stroke.