Successful Georgia Pottery Enterprise Celebrates 50 Years

GILLSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Hours earlier than the crack of crack of dawn, Billy Joe Craven turns on his potter’s wheel, transforming blocks of clay into business pottery and works of paintings.

besides the fact that children the founding father of Craven Pottery Inc. in Gillsville introduced his retirement over seven years ago, the 73-year-ancient still produces round one hundred pieces a day.

“after I retired I went home and sat on the porch for a little while, and realized i will’t take a seat on the porch,” Craven said whereas making a huge pot. “So, I kept coming returned. They named me ‘Boomerang.’”

This yr Craven’s enterprise became 50 years historic. It became mid-March in 1971 when his first two consumers pulled as much as his shop. They have been Ira Goin and Elvin Owen, who lived in North Carolina. Descendants of this family unit nevertheless purchase from Craven Pottery Inc. to at the present time.

Marcia Craven Stamey, Craven’s daughter, noted her father likes to assert he’s been “Owen and Goin all his life.”

After his first yr in business, Craven mentioned his gross sales got here out at $25,000, and through the years without delay grew into a multimillion dollar company that disbursed all over the U.S. with companions throughout the globe.

“My career became blessed with lots of decent individuals,” Craven observed. “I take very little credit score for what happened.”

dwelling in Gillsville, Craven said he turned into uncovered to the wealthy pottery culture of the town, getting to know the way to make his first piece when he was round eleven years ancient. each Craven and his younger brother Mike are ninth technology potters with Georgia pink clay operating deep of their roots.

When Craven become 14 years historic, he went to work for the Hewell family, who has a lineage of potters dating returned to 1850. Craven spoke of Harold Hewell taught him the craft of industrial pottery, setting him to work for years.

“I never dreamed I’d be in the pottery business,” Craven referred to, chuckling. “The handiest purpose I certainly not moved changed into because I didn’t have ample funds to get a bus ticket.”

After Craven graduated from high faculty and commenced going to faculty, he noted Hewell approached him and pointed out he would sell him half the business if he went returned to work with him.

Craven took up the man’s present, then 19 weeks later he turned into drafted into the U.S. military. He served from late ’sixty six to late ’68, doing a tour in Vietnam.

When he again from Vietnam, he went back into business with Hewell unless 1970 — the day he stop.

Craven referred to he changed into elevating two children in a 12-by means of-60-foot cell domestic and felt like it was time to birth his own pottery shop.

“It turned into hard beginning out, we didn’t have any funds,” he stated. “I borrowed $10,000 from my daddy, and that become his existence rate reductions again then. And, we made it one way or the other.”

Craven pointed out he immediately realized that there’s three things in company that individuals deserve to need to succeed: God, household and “you’ve bought to supply a hundred and ten% of yourself to the company.”

“I acquired those three things blended up sometimes, however I’ve had a great lifestyles experience,” he spoke of. “I managed to build a huge enterprise.”

Craven referred to his younger brother, Mike, become the first group of workers he ever hired. Mike worked with him for around 30 years before opening up his own shop in 2007, which is referred to as “Craven household Pottery.”

Craven noted Craven Pottery Inc. went from serving as a one-man operation in Gillsville to having a staff of 368, 4 locations and 20 related side groups.

He referred to that his first step to fitting a pottery significant in the U.S. all started with KMart. In 1975, Craven spoke of he packed his bags and flew to the retailer’s headquarters in Michigan.

without an appointment and wearing blue jeans, he remembers jogging previous men dressed in three-piece suits and asking to communicate with someone who oversees the backyard branch.

luckily, the company gave him the right person to consult with. jogging as much as the person, Craven noted he set a little flower pot on his desk.

“I referred to, ‘I made that,’” Craven recounted. “He turned round to the united states map and spoke of, ‘We’ve got 1,600 retailers. can you carrier all those shops?’”

Craven responded with, “No, sir.”

altering gears, the person provided him one other proposition — presenting 239 retailers in the Southeast with pottery items. Craven took the offer.

“He gave me the order, and that i walked out of his office,” Craven mentioned. “On the aircraft coming domestic, I obtained to counting it up, and it could take me two decades at my current cost of production to fill that one order.”

Rounding up his friends returned home, Craven pointed out he informed more personnel to assist deliver his hefty deal.

“I not ever did fill the person’s orders, but I stayed in contact with him and had a very good relationship with him,” the potter stated. “He became nevertheless purchasing what i was making.”

all through that equal 12 months, Craven mentioned he got here throughout a damaged piece of terracotta pottery and observed its Italian origins. He added that it turned into “the prettiest clay” he’d ever viewed.

sure satisfactory, Craven mentioned he went to his trailer domestic, snatched up his army duffel bag, lifted up his mattress and grabbed a handful of money.

“My wife mentioned, ‘the place are you going?’” Craven recounted. “I said, ‘I’m going to Italy.’ She spoke of, ‘You’ve lost your mind.’”

Craven traveled to Italy and met with the manufacturers who made the piece of pottery he found, and cut them a deal. The Italian company would make pottery items for him that he would in flip sell throughout the U.S.

Craven observed he went lower back to KMart’s headquarters and informed them he may now give 1,600 outlets.

“He gave me one order,” he spoke of. “That put me on the map.”

in the years following, Craven went on to make different international connections, increasing his imported work in Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Haiti, Mexico and different nations.

Stamey, his daughter, referred to Craven didn’t just center of attention on producing pottery, however additionally silk vegetation, wicker baskets, soil, furniture, the oil utilized in cinnamon brooms and different goods.

When Craven decided to retire at 66, he stated he shut down all of his groups and international partnerships to center of attention on pottery creation in Gillsville.

nowadays, Stamey, who manages the business’s revenue, spoke of they nevertheless work with Tractor provide Co., Walmart and wholesale customers. Craven presently operates the store with a workforce of 5.

a few of their widespread products consist of jack-o’lantern pots, face jugs, Rebecca pitchers and strawberry jars, which might be large pots used to develop strawberries.

despite the long hours of difficult labor and the perpetual moisture that causes his palms to develop into soft, Craven noted he has cherished every 2d of his craft.

“I certainly not did go to work a day in my life,” he referred to. “I not ever had been at work because I savour what I do widely wide-spread to the fullest."

When Craven can not flip pots, Stamey talked about the household’s legacy will keep on via her 24-year-historical niece, Savannah Craven Arnold. Like Craven, Stamey noted Arnold has fairly the potter’s gift.

“She’s staggering,” Stamey said. “When she does come (to the pottery store), she and Daddy get to work on that glaze. He’s been first rate medication for her. they have a neat bond.”

Craven Pottery Inc. is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary from 10 a.m. to three p.m. Saturday, may additionally 8, at the store’s headquarters on 6640 toll road fifty two in Gillsville. The experience is free to the general public and should feature many native potters.