The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters

May 5, 2022 - December 31, 2023

Mint Museum Randolph


From crocks, jars, and jugs to pitchers, candleholders, and vases, “turning pots” is one of the oldest and richest craft traditions in North Carolina. For more than 200 years, members of the Cole family have been potting in central North Carolina — Randolph, Moore, Lee, and Montgomery counties. Six generations of Coles, and no fewer than 18 individuals, are represented in The Mint Museum’s permanent collection. More than 60 highlights of their wares are included in the installation The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters.

One reason for its long-term success is that making pottery has so often been a family tradition in the state. Fathers taught the art of forming, glazing, and firing clay objects to their sons, and in later generations also to daughters, who in turn taught their children, and so on through the decades. These family dynasties not only helped to keep the potting craft alive, but ensured continuity in techniques and craftsmanship, as well as introduced artistic innovations in succeeding generations.

The Cole Family: A Dynasty of North Carolina Potters presents a visual history of “turned pots” and the family that helped turn North Carolina into one of America’s centers for handmade, traditional pottery.