Janet Calhoun

Potter

Janet Calhoun

Recipient Information

Location

Lenoir (Caldwell County), North Carolina

Medium

Pottery

Year of Award

2020

Grant or Fellowship

Folk & Traditional Arts Master Artist Fellowship

Grant Amount

$9,000

Artist Biography

Janet Calhoun of Caldwell County comes from a family that does it all. She has inherited a rich, diverse Appalachian heritage from her parents, both former North Carolina Heritage Award recipients. Calhoun is a keeper of many traditions, but her life’s work has been dedicated to traditional pottery. On her mother’s side, the family have been potters since the early 1800s. She began learning to throw pots as a young child, and by five years old, she says, “I could make bowls that would pass Grandfather’s standards.” By high school, she was producing items “at the production level.” She learned by observation and through her elders’ tutelage.

In 1992, she and her husband, Michael Calhoun, opened Traditions Pottery near her parents’ operation, and they still work closely with each other. Calhoun’s style is marked by a blending of tradition and new shapes. She makes both traditional, functional pieces that mirror her grandfather’s style, but she enjoys creating her own shapes. She and her family dig and prepare their own clay and make glazes from two family recipes but they have also created new colors. By innovating shapes and creating new family recipes, she gives her work a dynamic sense of continuity.

Like her parents and grandfather, she takes every opportunity to teach her grandchildren. She hopes to use the fellowship not just for creative growth, but for business and professional growth in order to facilitate the survival of the pottery tradition in her family. She plans to attend an intensive ceramics course at Starworks in Star, North Carolina, in order to improve her throwing techniques and knowledge of glazes. She would also like to attend the American Handcrafted Show in Pennsylvania which “features the largest collection of handmade wholesale artists across North America.” She will be able to attend workshops on marketing and business practices.