Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: Nell Cole Graves, August 3, 1985 CE


Interview of Nell Cole Graves
Transcript of Interview of Nell Cole Graves
Interviewee: Nell Cole Graves
Interviewer: Michelle A. Francis
Date of Interview: August 3, 1985
(Begin Side 1)

Michelle A. Francis:

Let's see, what is today, Nell? Is this the third?

Nell Cole Graves:

The third.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. It's August 3, 1985 and I'm talkin' to Nell Cole Graves here in Seagrove. And I had a list of questions, Nell, from our last time. Sort of what I wanted to do, in listening back over the tape, we talked about lots of different things that happened. (Laughter)

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah! (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

. . .that happened. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

Half of 'em I can't remember, can you?

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, that's all right. I couldn't remember 'em either till I listened to the tape. But I sort of thought maybe I'd kind of break down Cole's Pottery into decades and talk about the 1920s, and the 1930s, and the 1940s, and the 1950s and sort of the highlights, what you remember the most out of the 1920s. Like, were you making art pottery then, or was it just salt glaze?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. I think so. It was art pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was it, were you making any salt glaze in the '20s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. In the '20s, yeah. We had uh, salt glaze, yeah. And we made salt glaze and then we made the art, too.

Michelle A. Francis:

And the art, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

During this time you were just using wood, weren't ya?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

A wood kiln. So you had two kilns going?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.




Michelle A. Francis:

One for the salt glaze and one for the art pottery.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

What kind of glazes, colors were you usin' back then, can you remember, in the '20s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, well, we was usin' uh, we were usin' the brown sugar.

Michelle A. Francis:

Brown sugar.

Nell Cole Graves:

And the bronze green and then we had one, uh, let's see, we called it, um. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

What did it look like?

Nell Cole Graves:

It was a kind of a orange. I guess we probably called it a orange.

Michelle A. Francis:

An orange. Is that bronze green, did it have sort of a metallic look about it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Mm-hum, and like the brown sugar, except it was green.

Michelle A. Francis:

Now, those weren't double dips?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, huh-uh. Those were just single dip.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay.

Nell Cole Graves:

We didn't double dip anything then.

Michelle A. Francis:

How did you get started in doin' the glazes? What got you started doin' those?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, people would come and ask for different colors and my daddy started figurin' it out how to do it.

Michelle A. Francis:

How to do it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And did he start by ordering. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Ordering glazes.

Michelle A. Francis:

. . .the glazes. From, what was that?

Nell Cole Graves:

From Drakefield.




Michelle A. Francis:

From Drakefield?

Nell Cole Graves:

Drakefield, mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. In the '20s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And then he would, I guess he would have to sort of alter the glazes to suit you all's clay, wouldn't he? Or did they work on the clays?

Nell Cole Graves:

It, well, it wasn't the clay that we'd have to work for, it was the power of the heat with wood or other, gas, and stuff like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Gas. Well, with the uh, you may not remember this because you probably didn't do--did you work on the firing any?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, my daddy did the firing.

Michelle A. Francis:

He did all the firing at that time.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did Waymon help him?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, Waymon would help him, but Daddy did most of it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did most of it.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Do you have any idea what temperature they fired the art pottery at?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, probably around 18 or 1900.

Michelle A. Francis:

So it was sort of a low temperature.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. A low temperature then.

Michelle A. Francis:

What shapes were you making out of the art pottery?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, just vases and bowls and some pie plates.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Pie plates.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. But whenever he got the stoneware, you know that went on up. I don't know how high the stoneware. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, that got a lot higher, didn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah.




Michelle A. Francis:

Who was workin' at that time? There's your dad, . . .

Nell Cole Graves:

My daddy.

Michelle A. Francis:

And you were turnin'.

Nell Cole Graves:

And me, and Waymon.

Michelle A. Francis:

Waymon. Mm-hum. So it was just the two of you.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

I mean you and Waymon were the only people turnin'?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, my daddy was turnin'. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

Was your dad turnin' some, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

My daddy turned, too. Yeah, he made lots of pieces.

Michelle A. Francis:

Now who, who were you selling to?

Nell Cole Graves:

We were sellin' mostly to northern people that come here and bought it. And then they would buy it for their own use. And then they'd uh, my daddy would pack it and ship it to 'em by rail.

Michelle A. Francis:

Were they sellin' it in stores up north?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, not really.

Michelle A. Francis:

They just buying for themselves.

Nell Cole Graves:

They're. just buyin' it for theirselves. See, we didn't make a lot of stuff like they, they have to do now.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah.

Nell Cole Graves:

You kept busy, but they [unintelligible].

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, did the people from up north mainly buy the art pottery?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, they liked the art pottery, and then they liked the stoneware, too.

Michelle A. Francis:

The stoneware. So they bought both, both kinds?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And then did you still have a lot of local people coming in?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.




Michelle A. Francis:

In the '20s? 1920s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, we had, we had a lot of people from Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Greensboro, places like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

How did you know what to price your, your ware back then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, I guess my daddy just kind of estimated how much it cost him you know, and just added it up like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you ever do it like, figure up how much it cost you and then weigh the piece and then charge so much per pound? Or so much per gallon if it was a. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

It, at one time they did it by the gallon.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Nell Cole Graves:

Whenever they made stoneware jugs or churns or things like that. They charged by the gallon then. But then, the art ware, they just charged by the piece.

Michelle A. Francis:

By the piece.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, what shapes were you makin' in the 1920s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, I's makin' candle holders and vases and. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. How tall would the vases get?

Nell Cole Graves:

What I was makin'?

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. The ones that you were makin'.

Nell Cole Graves:

Maybe around six to eight inches, like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Six to eight inches?

Nell Cole Graves:

But I made a lot of the smaller things. And I made, uh, lot of the little doll sets.

Michelle A. Francis:

Little doll sets?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Little tiny tea sets like?

Nell Cole Graves:

Little tiny tea sets. Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

I bet they were popular.




Nell Cole Graves:

Oh yeah. They're big for 'em now, but I say, "No way!"

Michelle A. Francis:

It takes a lot of time, doesn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, and I just don't have that kind of time anymore.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. I can understand that. What was Waymon turnin'? In the '20s.

Nell Cole Graves:

He was turnin' uh, more jugs and vases and things like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. The larger things?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, yeah, but my daddy made a lot of large things.

Michelle A. Francis:

He made the larger things?

Nell Cole Graves:

He made the churns and things.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Nell Cole Graves:

But then my brother, well he started makin', Waymon started makin' the larger things.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was your dad then mainly makin' the things that were salt glaze?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, he made the salt glaze.

Michelle A. Francis:

The stoneware?

Nell Cole Graves:

But he made vases, too. Big things that he put that orange color on, and different colors like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Uh-huh. Were you signing or stamping any of your pottery at this time?

Nell Cole Graves:

At one time we stamped it.

Michelle A. Francis:

When was that? What period of time?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, that was in the early '20s.

Michelle A. Francis:

In the early '20s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

What did the stamp say?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, "J.B. Cole's Pottery" I think. "J.B. Cole" or "J.B. Cole's Pottery". And it was at Steeds, North Carolina.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. That's what they called it then?




Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

They called this place here.

Nell Cole Graves:

The post office was Steeds.

Michelle A. Francis:

It keeps changin', doesn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

I think I remember you sayin' at one time it was As. .

Nell Cole Graves:

Asbury.

Michelle A. Francis:

Asbury. That's right.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. I don't believe my daddy had any stamped Asbury. I don't believe he did. I sure'd like to know where you could get a'hold of it. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, if I see one, I'll let you know about it. (Laughter) So just in the early '20s you stamped things?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And then you didn't start signing pottery until just a few years ago, right?

Nell Cole Graves:

Just a few years ago.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, 1983, '82.

Nell Cole Graves:

And then we made pottery for uh, this place in Asheville, and it was the Sunset Pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Sunset Pottery.

Nell Cole Graves:

And they asked us to have a stamp made and we stamped every pot that we sold to them, "Sunset Pottery".

Michelle A. Francis:

Sunset. So you stamped it Sunset?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Sunset Pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

When was this?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, that was in uh, in the '20s.

Michelle A. Francis:

The 1920s, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

How many, do you remember how many years you sold pottery to Sunset?




Nell Cole Graves:

To them, no, don't remember.

Michelle A. Francis:

Do you all have books, you know, your financial records that would go way back that would show when you sold pottery to so-and-so?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, I think, I think I have 'em up here at the house.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. I was just curious if there was somewhere a record where. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. I'm pretty sure I have 'em.

Michelle A. Francis:

So if someone brought in a piece of pottery to you and it was stamped Sunset, you could probably go back to your books at home and figure out when it was made.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Well, I bought a piece about a year ago at a flea market and it had Sunset.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. This guy wanted it and I got it and he bought it.

Michelle A. Francis:

I'll keep my eye out for that now.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

'Cause I didn't realize that you had done that at one time.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Sunset Pottery. If you see one stamped with Sunset Pottery, Asheville. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

I'll get it right away! (Laughter)

Nell Cole Graves:

Get it, because that was from us. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

And did you sell them, was that just art pottery or did they buy. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

Just art pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Just art pottery. Was there anything that stands out in your mind in particular about that time. Somethin' that might of happened to you or Waymon or your family or people that might have come by.

Nell Cole Graves:

Not really, huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

I noticed the Pepsi Girl up here.




Nell Cole Graves:

The Coca Cola. . .?

Michelle A. Francis:

The Coca Cola Girl. Excuse me.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. My daddy thought it was me.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. And he brought a whole arm-full of calendars home, and I said, "Daddy, why'd you bring so many calendars home?" He said, "Well, when did you have it made?"

Michelle A. Francis:

(Laughter) Well, it does look a lot like you.

Nell Cole Graves:

I said, "Well, it's not me." A lot of people thinks it's me.

Michelle A. Francis:

Do they?

Nell Cole Graves:

One man who was a smart aleck, he said, "Would it make you mad if I said somethin' to you?" I said, "I don't usually get mad." And he said, "You sure was a pretty young girl." And I said, "Thank you." And he walked out, thinkin' it was me.

Michelle A. Francis:

Thinkin' it was you?

Nell Cole Graves:

I let him do it, he was smart. He had a big crowd over there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, if it's not you, it could be your twin sister.

Nell Cole Graves:

Right. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

'Cause you sure do look a lot alike.

Nell Cole Graves:

I wore my hair like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you wear your hair like that?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And your eyes and your smile, too, is a lot like her. I wondered if it was you. If that's why it was up there.

Nell Cole Graves:

No, it's not me. This man from Florida, he was a old man, and he would come up and buy pottery and my daddy sold pottery to the Frenches in Miami.

Michelle A. Francis:

Frenches?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And he would come up here and get it and he just loved that calendar because it looked like me. And he had my brother's boy to take a picture of it before he died.




Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

Because he wanted to see it one more time.

Michelle A. Francis:

See it one more time. Isn't that somethin'. Well, did he just buy pottery for himself?

Nell Cole Graves:

He bought pottery, he and uh, he and the boys, nephews, had a pottery down there but they sold our pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay.

Nell Cole Graves:

They didn't have a pottery, they just had a gift shop.,

Michelle A. Francis:

A gift shop. In Florida?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. In Miami.

Michelle A. Francis:

In Miami. Do you remember the name of it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. French's.

Michelle A. Francis:

It's called French's?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. So they, they would come up here and get it by the truck load. And then my daddy had a larger truck and he, he started carrying truck loads down there. He'd get one of the hired hands to drive it down there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, that was a big customer then, wasn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mr. French.

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh yeah. And they're still jars there in Miami that Waymon made.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you sell, now was this in the '20s or the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

This was in the '30s.

Michelle A. Francis:

In the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Who else did you sell to in the '20s? You sold to Sunset Pottery.

Nell Cole Graves:

Sunset Pottery.




Michelle A. Francis:

In Asheville.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And that one in Greensboro.

Michelle A. Francis:

What was it in Greens--what was it called in Greensboro?

Nell Cole Graves:

It's the Hattaway. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

The Hattaway?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Oh, the Hathaway Feed and Seed Store. (Laughter)

Nell Cole Graves:

Feed and Seed Store, yeah. And uh, let's see, oh gosh, I forgot the one that was in uh. Hm, it'll come to me.

Michelle A. Francis:

It'll come to you as we talk, I'm sure it'll come to you.

Nell Cole Graves:

I'll go over the alphabet and it'll come to me.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah (Laughter).

Nell Cole Graves:

Do you ever do that?

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. I do. (Laughter) That's a good trick to try and make you remember it.

Nell Cole Graves:

I know it.

Michelle A. Francis:

It helps me to do that. Do you remember any of the people who were up north that you sold to, you said that used to come down here and buy?

Nell Cole Graves:

Not, not really, no.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did you ever sell any to South Carolina or towards, down towards the eastern part of the state?

Nell Cole Graves:

Huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

In the '20s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay. And so, Mr. French was in the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. French's Pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

In the '30s. Who else did you sell to in the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, it'd be a lot of gift shops in the mountains. You know, a lot of 'em had little shops over there. And they would buy it and re-sell it.




Michelle A. Francis:

Were you stampin' any of it durin' the '30s for anybody?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Were you still sellin'. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

We, uh I think, no I don't think we stamped that for the Frenches. I don't think we did. 'Cause we were gettin' too busy then.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, I bet you were. Were.you sellin' any still to Sunset Pottery?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, huh-uh. Sunset, well they, it was the early '30s, they were still buyin' but then they, they sold their place out. I don't remember what year. They didn't last too many years.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. Well, did you introduce any new kinds of glazes and colors in the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. My daddy would still keep workin' on glazes.

Michelle A. Francis:

What colors were you makin' then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, we started doin' the cream and brown I believe, in the '30s. I'm not sure, but I believe it was.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

'Cause it's hard to remember all of that way back then.

Michelle A. Francis:

I'm sure it is.

Nell Cole Graves:

I was doin' more of the turnin' then than I was the glazin'. We had labor, you know, that. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

In the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

In the '30s, that did most of the glazin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

Who did that? Who were they?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, Johnny Kennedy and Ralph Jordan.

Michelle A. Francis:

Ralph Jordan. Cannady, with a "C"?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, "K", Kennedy.

Michelle A. Francis:

Kennedy, like the president.

Nell Cole Graves:

And his name was Johnny.




Michelle A. Francis:

Johnny.

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, that was about the two that glazed. Johnny and I used to do all the glazes.

Michelle A. Francis:

That would take a long time, wouldn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, it'd take a long time, and those large pieces, he was kind of a short man anyway, you know, and I'd just about have to hold him up whenever he was standing up there dippin' those great big pieces in there. And have to roll 'em in the tub. I'd just about have to hold him.

Michelle A. Francis:

What were those big pieces back then in the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Vases.

Michelle A. Francis:

Big vases?

Nell Cole Graves:

Big vases, built up like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's almost, that was like two feet high.

Nell Cole Graves:

About that high. Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

All he would do is pick 'em up and roll 'em in that.

Michelle A. Francis:

I bet.

Nell Cole Graves:

And then you'd get glaze on the inside and you had to drain it. Oh, it was hard work.

Michelle A. Francis:

I bet it was.

Nell Cole Graves:

It's a wonder my back hasn't broke from some of them jugs. But I was strong, then.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well that pottery that tall must have weighed, what?

Nell Cole Graves:

It weighed around, well whenever, after it was baked and all the first time, it would weigh around 25 pounds or maybe more than that.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot.

Nell Cole Graves:

And then you'd have to glaze it. You had to keep it, turn it, you know, an even amount of times so the glaze would be right.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. I bet you never did any double-dip glaze on that.




Nell Cole Graves:

Oh, yes we did.

Michelle A. Francis:

Really?

Nell Cole Graves:

We did.

Michelle A. Francis:

Whew! Goodness.

Nell Cole Graves:

I would dip it in one glaze and he would dip it in the other glaze. I'd dip it in the green and he'd dip the white.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot of work.

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh! Was it. Makes me tired to think about it.

Michelle A. Francis:

(Laughter) I bet.

Nell Cole Graves:

Course I was young then, and I could work like a man.

Michelle A. Francis:

No, you didn't think I guess.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-mm.

Michelle A. Francis:

You just did it.

Nell Cole Graves:

No, I work all the time now, but, not that strainin' work like that, like those big jars.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, were those big jars made in two sections or three sections?

Nell Cole Graves:

Two.

Michelle A. Francis:

Two?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did Waymon do 'em or your dad?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Waymon did most all the jars. My daddy got where we would, we did all the turnin' and. . . (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

. . .big vases that Waymon was makin' in two pieces.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

That must have taken a lot of clay.

Nell Cole Graves:

It did. I don't know how many pound now. Maybe uh, as many as 25.

Michelle A. Francis:

25 pounds?




Nell Cole Graves:

Probably, yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Who were you sellin' those to?

Nell Cole Graves:

We were sellin' those, a lot of those went to Florida.

Michelle A. Francis:

Those went to Florida?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

To the Frenches?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Were you sellin' to anybody else in Florida, at that time?

Nell Cole Graves:

No. That's the only one.

Michelle A. Francis:

Just French's.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

We were talkin', we were also talkin' about glazes. You said you started the brown and. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

Cream and brown?

Michelle A. Francis:

Cream and brown during the '30s. What else?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm, turquoise blue.

Michelle A. Francis:

Turquoise blue.

Nell Cole Graves:

And uh, white.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Nell Cole Graves:

And of course that double-dipped green.

Michelle A. Francis:

Double-dipped green.

Nell Cole Graves:

What we was talkin' about a while ago.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, we talked about that. You dipped it first in green and then in white?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And then it went, the streaks went down.

Michelle A. Francis:

The streaks went down. I bet that was pretty.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Oh yeah. It's beautiful. I may have a piece over here.




(Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

You were sayin' in the '30s that it was you and Waymon, it was you and Waymon turnin' and your dad was still turnin' and you had some help with the glazin', right?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

John Kennedy was glazing.

Nell Cole Graves:

He was glazing and uh, . . . (Tape stops, then starts)

Nell Cole Graves:

He made a lot of those things that was made for Sunset Pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Your husband made a lot of the pottery for Sunset Pottery?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Vases and things.

Michelle A. Francis:

When he was turnin' was he turnin' before you all got married?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, huh-uh, he learned after we got married.

Michelle A. Francis:

When did you say you got married? You told me and I forgot.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, '29.

Michelle A. Francis:

1929?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

So that was, he was, he started turning towards the end of.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, maybe around '34, '35. (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

So your, Philmore started turnin' after y'all got married.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Had he been workin' here at all before then?

Nell Cole Graves:

He worked, uh, well yeah, I guess maybe six months or somethin' like that, maybe a year. Maybe it's around six months that he's with my daddy.

Michelle A. Francis:

Is that how you met him?




Nell Cole Graves:

When did I meet him? (Laughter) One night at a box party.

Michelle A. Francis:

At a box party?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. You know what a box party is?

Michelle A. Francis:

Is that when you fix your supper and. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

. . .and they sell it schools, you know, and the money goes to--yeah. I met him there. And he bought my box.

Michelle A. Francis:

He bought your box?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. But he didn't uh, he didn't bring me home that night. And, then, maybe uh, maybe a month or two and he came out here one time it was snowin', and it was on a Saturday. And so he, uh, we didn't, you know, all of us laughin' and talkin' together. And then whenever he went home, he called me then the next week for a date. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he? Called you for a date. Huh.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. And that started it.

Michelle A. Francis:

That started it. Then he came out here to work for a while.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. That was when he started comin' out here and got a job out here and then tie worked here for, I don't know how long it was. Maybe six months or somethin' like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

So this would have been like 1928?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm, 1928, right.

Michelle A. Francis:

'Cause you got married, you said in '29. So in the '30s, it wasn't just you and Waymon, it was also Philmore turnin'.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh, turnin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

Now did he turn special shapes?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. He turned a lot of lamps.

Michelle A. Francis:

Lots of lamps.

Nell Cole Graves:

Lots of lamps. (Tape stops, then starts)




Michelle A. Francis:

And he also did, you said that he also did that other shape we were talkin' about? The candle, the cut-outs?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. He made the candle, the cut out candles, candle lanterns.

Michelle A. Francis:

Candle lantern, that's what I wanted to say. Is that an idea that he had on his own?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Somebody asked for one and he did it.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. I notice that the candle lanterns that you make now have like little stars and moons, half-moons and things.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Is that what you used back then, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. He drew those back then. And then some of 'em had this, uh, the slits down 'em, you know on the side.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, I've seen those kind before, too. So he made those and he made the lamps. What else did he make?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. The lamp bases and vases. Oh, he had uh, maybe 50 shapes before he died.

Michelle A. Francis:

50 shapes! And you said he died in 1969?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's a lot of, that's a lot of different shapes.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. And he went to service, you know, World War II.

Michelle A. Francis:

World War II? When did he go in?

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh I forgot now. It was in uh, I can't remember right now.

Michelle A. Francis:

Early 1940 or '41?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, maybe in '41, '40.

Michelle A. Francis:

Probably was '41, '42 maybe. Did he stay in for the entire war?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Bet you worried about him!

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. I worried about him, but he didn't have to go overseas or anything.




Michelle A. Francis:

He didn't?

Nell Cole Graves:

Huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Oh, he was lucky.

Nell Cole Graves:

He, he was at uh, where they had airplanes and you know, he had to help with the mechanics.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mechanical stuff? Where was he stationed?

Nell Cole Graves:

It was in, near St. Louis. A little airport over there on an Army base. It was near St. Louis, but I've forgotten now what the name of it was. It'll come to me.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, if he was gone for about half of the decade of the '40s then, was it just you and Waymon turnin' then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Waymon and I.

Michelle A. Francis:

When did your dad die?

Nell Cole Graves:

He died in uh, '42.

Michelle A. Francis:

'42?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. He died while Phil was in service.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he?

Nell Cole Graves:

And he wasn't turnin' very much then. As he got older he didn't.

Michelle A. Francis:

I was gonna ask if your dad was workin' right up to the end.

Nell Cole Graves:

No, he was more, just looked after the place and the glazin' and everything.

Michelle A. Francis:

So, he was helpin' with the glazin'?

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh yeah. Mm-hum. He would go out there and work with the boys.

Michelle A. Francis:

When did he stop turnin'?

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh, maybe in uh, maybe in '35, '38.

Michelle A. Francis:

'35, '38?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. He didn't turn very much then. And then we had uh, a man named Jack Kiser worked for us some, too.

Michelle A. Francis:

I've met Jack Kiser.




Nell Cole Graves:

You know he killed hisself? Did you know that? (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

You were sayin' that Jack Kiser used to work for you guys.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

When was that?

Nell Cole Graves:

He worked for my father. Uh, it would be in the '30s.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was that be in the ' 30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

So you had Jack Kiser workin 'some.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

And you and Waymon.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

And Philmore.

Nell Cole Graves:

And Philmore.

Michelle A. Francis:

And Philmore. And your dad wasn't turnin' any.

Nell Cole Graves:

And that's . . .

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, he was turnin' a little bit.

Nell Cole Graves:

. . .yeah, but Bascome King, that was Virginia's father, and that, he was my brother-in-law. And he was workin' for my daddy then, too, turnin'. He made a lot of casseroles and things.

Michelle A. Francis:

Bascome King did?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he learn how to turn here, or did he already know how?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, he learned here.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he learn here?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

He married your sister?




Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

What was her name?

Nell Cole Graves:

Vellie.

Michelle A. Francis:

Vellie?

Nell Cole Graves:

Vellie. V-E-L-L-I-E.

Michelle A. Francis:

L-L-I-E, okay. I remember you talkin' about her last time we talked.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. She's in a nursin' home.

Michelle A. Francis:

Is she?

Nell Cole Graves:

And then another one that worked for us was Ad Luck. He was one of our cousins that was Sydney, you remember Sydney Luck.

Michelle A. Francis:

I remember you talkin' about Ad Luck, but I don't remember Sydney.

Nell Cole Graves:

Ad, Ad.

Michelle A. Francis:

A-D?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

It's not E-D?

Nell Cole Graves:

Huh-uh. Not Ed, but Ad.

Michelle A. Francis:

Ad, Ad Luck.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And he, he made pottery for us here. That was after my father died.

Michelle A. Francis:

Ad worked after your father died.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh, uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

What kind of shapes did Jack Kiser turn for you?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, he made more vases and things like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Smaller shapes?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Or medium?

Nell Cole Graves:

Medium, uh-huh.




Michelle A. Francis:

Medium-sized shapes.

Nell Cole Graves:

He made some pretty good sized ones, but Waymon did most of the big ones.

Michelle A. Francis:

Jack Kiser didn't really do pottery for very long, did he?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, he made pottery for us and then he, he made pottery for the Rainbow Pottery at Sanford, and then he made pottery for my brother in Smithfield, Herman Cole.

Michelle A. Francis:

Herman?

Nell Cole Graves:

Herman, H-E-R-M-A-N, Herman.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Nell Cole Graves:

And he made pottery for him. I don't know long, but he made pottery for him.

Michelle A. Francis:

How long did he make pottery for you all?

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh, maybe uh, two years, somethin' like that, maybe.

Michelle A. Francis:

Waymon was tellin' me that Jack Kiser was good at tellin' stories.

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh yeah! (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

That he always had a lot of stories to tell.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Some wild ones.

Michelle A. Francis:

Some wild stories to tell.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, we had a lot of fun whenever he and his wife would come up there, you know, we'd play Rook at night. Had a lot of fun. We'd have Coke Colas and peanuts and crackers and cookies and things like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, I bet that was fun.

Nell Cole Graves:

Just the four and their little girl.

Michelle A. Francis:

Uh-huh. (Tape stops, then starts)

Nell Cole Graves:

Ad Luck.

Michelle A. Francis:

Ad Luck, that's right. That's what we were talkin' about.




Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Because we were talkin' about him a'makin' pottery here. Let's see now, he died in uh, (I'll speak loud whenever I get talkin'). (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

When did Ad Luck come work for you?

Nell Cole Graves:

It was uh, let's see, I's tryin' to think when Phil came home from the service.

Michelle A. Francis:

Well, the war was over in 1945.

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, he started workin' for us in '45--'44, '45.

Michelle A. Francis:

Before Phil came home?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Before Phil came home. And then he worked for us for I guess maybe two years. And he started home one day, one Saturday, he'd always go home to Carthage, he lived in Carthage, he'd go home for the weekends. And he'd taken his garbage to throw out up here at our dump yard and he had a stroke.

Michelle A. Francis:

Oh my.

Nell Cole Graves:

And we took him in to the hospital and he died that afternoon.

Michelle A. Francis:

That afternoon?

Nell Cole Graves:

That afternoon. (Tape stops, then starts)

Michelle A. Francis:

So he only worked for you, Ad only worked for you then a couple of years.

Nell Cole Graves:

About a couple of years.

Michelle A. Francis:

Before he died? Was he a young man?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, he was a kind of a elder man. But he was really good.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was he good?

Nell Cole Graves:

He made casseroles and trays and things. He was good. And he had a lot of patience, you know, he'd smooth 'em off so good.

Michelle A. Francis:

Make 'em really look finished.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.




Michelle A. Francis:

Did he learn while he was here, or had he already. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, his father had been a potter before him, you see, and he had made pottery in. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

Who was his father?

Nell Cole Graves:

His father was Henry Luck. You've got some [unintelligible] I think.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah, I think I might have.

Nell Cole Graves:

Sydney's grandfather worked here.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay.

Nell Cole Graves:

And so that was, Ad was Henry's son. And he had worked at another pottery, but, well he worked for his father you know, years before that, and all. He'd been a pottery- maker, but I don't remember now whether he made pottery anywhere else down around Sanford or anywhere, I don't remember about that.

Michelle A. Francis:

How did he come to work for you folks?

Nell Cole Graves:

How come him to come and work?

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, we were needin' somebody. Phil was in service. And we were doin' anything to grab another pottery-maker. And so we found out about him and he said he'd come and work for us.

Michelle A. Francis:

So that was how you got hold of him.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. That's how we got hold of Ad.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was Phil back then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Phil got back, but whenever, before he died.

Michelle A. Francis:

Before he died, okay.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

So now we're, we're talkin' about the '40s.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

And we've got, Phil is home.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum

Michelle A. Francis:

And during the war though, it was just you and Waymon and then Ad Luck?




Nell Cole Graves:

And Bascome.

Michelle A. Francis:

And Bascome, that's right.

Nell Cole Graves:

Bascome King, my brother-in-law.

Michelle A. Francis:

Bascome King. That's right. And Bascome was the one that learned here.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay. Let's make sure I get it all straight.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah, he's the one. Bascome King. That's Virginia's father.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's her father, that's right. And he married your sister.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Vellie.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay, get all this straight. (Laughter)

Nell Cole Graves:

Get all of it straight.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's right. After Phil came back and after Ad died, did you have anybody else working for you?

Nell Cole Graves:

Anybody else turnin' pottery?

Michelle A. Francis:

Uh-huh, in the '40s.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. We had, I guess that was around uh, in the '50s that we had a Teague boy, Archie Teague.

Michelle A. Francis:

Archie Teague.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. That was uh, you know,. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

That's Jim Teague's son, isn't it?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Archie Teague.

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

And over Pot Luck, Laura Teague, her brother?




Nell Cole Graves:

Laura, uh-huh. They were brother and sister.

Michelle A. Francis:

I heard Archie was a pretty good turner.

Nell Cole Graves:

Archie was a good turner. And then he left here and went to his father-in-law's and they put up a pottery theirselves. And then they run that for awhile.

Michelle A. Francis:

In Asheboro?

Nell Cole Graves:

Out from Asheboro, uh-huh. West of Asheboro. And then they decided to close it down, not make pottery, he wanted to go to the fire department. And so that's where he is now.

Michelle A. Francis:

That's where he is now. The fire department.

Nell Cole Graves:

I told his daddy what a shame he was losin' all that art right there. We trained him, he come here, he didn't know too much about it, but he got to where he could make pretty things. He made beautiful candle holders.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was that his specialty while he was here--was candle holders?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, he made candle holders and bowls and ash trays, lot of ash trays.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Guess he just didn't want to be a potter.

Nell Cole Graves:

He just didn't want to be a potter. And he could be a good potter. He was a good one. Because he had it in his bones.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Well, was it during the '40s that you went from wood-burning to a gas kiln, oil kiln?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Well, let's see, our daddy died in '42, and we got a gas, I guess it was maybe. '45, '46, somewhere like that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. That was the first, the first one you had?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Not gas. Kerosene, oil.

Michelle A. Francis:

It was kerosene, kerosene oil?

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was it difficult for you?

Nell Cole Graves:

For what?

Michelle A. Francis:

When your dad died and you didn't have him here and Phil was in the service?




Nell Cole Graves:

Oh yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Must have seen like a. . .

Nell Cole Graves:

Put us back, it really put us back.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. Was business still good?

Nell Cole Graves:

Business was good. We had a lot of northern trade, you know, comin' through Pinehurst.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum. Was it still just people comin' in buyin' for themselves, or. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And then a lot of shops.

Michelle A. Francis:

The shops? You're gettin' more wholesale then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. We got, we did more wholesale then.

Michelle A. Francis:

Were you doin' much wholesale in the '30s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, yeah, uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

More wholesale than retail, would you say?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh, yeah, I think so. We did more wholesale then.

Michelle A. Francis:

You've always had a pretty strong wholesale business, haven't ya?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. We had a good wholesale business. But then, retail got so strong we had to quit. 'Cause we had too many people comin' in, you know: buyin' it for their own self and for gifts.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. When did you quit doin' wholesale?

Nell Cole Graves:

Oh, it was in the '50s.

Michelle A. Francis:

That long ago?

Nell Cole Graves:

'50s. We weren't wholesalin' when Phil died.

Michelle A. Francis:

You weren't? .

Nell Cole Graves:

Huh-uh.

Michelle A. Francis:

And he died in '69 you said.

Nell Cole Graves:

'69. We, uh, we quit wholesalin' then in the, the late '50s or the early '60s.

Michelle A. Francis:

When, how long, did Bascome King work here for you until he died?




Nell Cole Graves:

He worked here until my father died. A little bit after that.

Michelle A. Francis:

Till '42. And then what did he do?

Nell Cole Graves:

He went home and put up a pottery of his own.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he?

Nell Cole Graves:

Yeah. (Laughter) King's Pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

King's Pottery.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Where was home?

Nell Cole Graves:

About two miles west of here. (Tape stops, then starts)

Nell Cole Graves:

I'm fussed more about my talkin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

Are you?

Nell Cole Graves:

"Talk louder, I cain't hear you!"

Michelle A. Francis:

You do talk real soft. That's, the person that's gonna type this interview up's gonna be fussin' at me. She's gonna say, "I can't hear her. What's she saying?"

Nell Cole Graves:

"Oh, what's she sayin'?" Oh, what were we talkin' about? Bascome's pottery.

Michelle A. Francis:

Yeah. You said he left soon after your dad died.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. He left, he made pottery up until I don't know how many years, but he had cancer, when he got sick.

Michelle A. Francis:

That he had cancer, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

He had cancer. And so whenever he got sick, well they had to close the pottery down.

Michelle A. Francis:

When was that, do you remember?

Nell Cole Graves:

Let me see when he died. If Virginia was here she could help us a lot. (Laughter)

Michelle A. Francis:

I know. She's not here though.

Nell Cole Graves:

Let's see. He died, and that would be uh,. . .




Michelle A. Francis:

You think he died probably in the early '50s?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Bascome King did?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Somewhere in there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did Virginia learn how to pot from him? How to turn pottery from him?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, she learned a lot here because she worked clay for him and weighed his clay out. And then whenever, she learned a lot of it back here. And then whenever he went to put up his pottery of his own, course she learned more then.

Michelle A. Francis:

Okay. So she, did she turn for him?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Was she turning for you all at that time?

Nell Cole Graves:

No, she was just more helpin'.

Michelle A. Francis:

Just helpin' around.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. And then she came back and worked with us then after that.

Michelle A. Francis:

After he died did she do that?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. Mm-hum. And then her husband lived in Virginia and he gave her so much trouble about her workin' here, I think he made her move up there with him. And then, whenever she came back and,. . .

Michelle A. Francis:

She come back in the '60s?

Nell Cole Graves:

She came back to us, she came back to work for us in '65.

Michelle A. Francis:

She came back in '65.

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

And has stayed since then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

And has stayed since then?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh.

Michelle A. Francis:

Been here since then.




Nell Cole Graves:

Been here ever since then. Yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Now she turns real thin, too.

Nell Cole Graves:

Mm-hum. Oh yeah.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did she learn, where'd she learn that from?

Nell Cole Graves:

Well, she learned it here. Her daddy was a good turner.

Michelle A. Francis:

Did he turn. . .?

Nell Cole Graves:

He turned pretty thin.

Michelle A. Francis:

. . .thin, too?

Nell Cole Graves:

Uh-huh. He made casseroles a little heavy, but the other things he made thin. And then she learned how and she, and well whenever she come back, she, she works 1ike we turn. I mean, you see, I made all of the little bowls and everything like that. I stayed on the wheel a long time. And then when I'd be runnin' down here to wait on customers, right back up there.

Michelle A. Francis:

Right back up there.

Nell Cole Graves:

So that's where she, she learned to make it thin.

Michelle A. Francis:

Mm-hum.

(End Tape)

Title
Francis, Michelle A., Oral Interview: Nell Cole Graves, August 3, 1985 CE
Description
A second interview of North Carolina potter Nell Cole Graves by Michelle Francis (the first is from June 8, 1985). Ms. Graves talks about working for her father's pottery shop, J.B. Cole, and business arrangements with Sunset Pottery in Asheville, and other merchants from North Carolina to Miami. They also discuss different glazes in detail.
Date
August 03, 1985
Original Format
oral histories
Extent
Local Identifier
OHSOAD
Creator(s)
Contributor(s)
Subject(s)
Spatial
Location of Original
Jenkins Fine Arts Center
Rights
This item has been made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. Researchers are responsible for using these materials in accordance with Title 17 of the United States Code and any other applicable statutes. If you are the creator or copyright holder of this item and would like it removed, please contact us at als_digitalcollections@ecu.edu.
http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC-EDU/1.0/

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