If you’ve never driven down Scenic 197, it’s a wonderfully lazy drive that winds through the communities of Lake Burton, Batesville, and Clarkesville. There are plenty of little shops along the way, but one of our favorites is Mark of the Potter, which is a little pottery shop nestled against (and over) the Soque River.
Mark of the Potter has been around since 1969. But long before it was a pottery shop, it was an old gristmill that made cornmeal. It sits right next to the Soque River and at the bottom of a little series of falls that was used to turn the wheel to grind the corn before it opens back out into a small pool on the Soque.
On one of our first visits years ago, there was even a small beaver dam on the far side of the river and the beavers would swim around out in front of the shop.
There is a huge back porch with pottery outside, a swing, and a little area where you can feed the trout that gather at the base of the falls. It’s not hard to imagine why the fish love this area and have been friends of the location for over a 100 years. Where they used to take advantage of spilled cornmeal they now take advantage of generous handfuls of fish food thrown from the porch by visitors.
While Mark of the Potter sells a few pieces on consignment from potters across the country, the majority of their work comes from the hands of their team of in-house potters, of which there are currently four. When walking around the store and looking at their work, you can see which potter made what by looking at the bottom of the piece for their signature or colored dots.
The spinning wheel isn’t always in use, but on most days you can find at least one of the potters in the back right hand corner working on a set of new pieces. It’s such an interesting thing to watch them work and to see their skill at taking a lump of clay and shaping it into the idea they have in their head.
The shop is nice and cozy and filled with all kinds of pottery, from mugs to bowls to serving dishes. They literally have everything. In the winter the wood burning stove keeps the place warm and for the other seasons, they usually have the doors open so you get to feel the cool breeze off the river while you shop.
They have complete sets if you’re looking to make a bigger purchase and they also have a ton of one-off pieces that are very affordable. And of course, they don’t mind it if you just browse or come to feed the huge trout from the porch. We always pick up a coffee mug or beer stein when we’re there and now we have a really unique eclectic mug collection back at the house.
The staff are really knowledgeable and helpful. They sort of stay out of your way unless you have a question which is what we like when we shop. But anytime we’ve had a question or asked for a bit of history, they’ve been generous with their time and knowledge.
Immediately across from the cash wrap – and almost directly in front of you when you walk in the front door – is a small set of stairs and a door that takes you under the shop to where you can see remnants of the old mill. Don’t forget to check this out before you leave as it has some signs sharing the history of the place. Plus it just looks really cool underneath. But watch your head.
North Georgia is lucky enough to have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to potters with many of them being nationally known – all while being right here in our backyards. Mark of the Potter is certainly one of the better ones in the region. The shop, the trout, the river, and all of the fine pottery they have on their shelves make this one of the must see places to stop and check out when in the area.