Project Room

Hand Dug CT: Ceramicists in the industrial flow

Curated by Sarah Fritchey, with assistance from Mark Potter

July 27—September 8, 2018


Hayne Bayless, Diane Cowen, Joe and Marie Cowen, Jeff Kalin, Marcy LaBella, Kiara Matos, Ryan Paxton, and Mark Potter, and Stephen Rodriguez.

Hayne Bayless, clay fired with black sand from Haddam CT, Dimensions variable.

Opening Reception: Friday, July 27, 4-7pm

The ‘historic’ period of ceramics is over, dead, that ‘development’ as a folk art, which later was elevated into ‘high’ craft by the porcelain shops of Britain and China, have put an end to the sentimental dreams of Bernard Leach.  I was captivated by his dreams too…but trying to do that again is like trying to write like James Joyce.

—Mark Potter, 2018

If there are clays to be found at all, it is practically certain that they have already been found and used by somebody for some purpose.  

—Michael Cardew, Pioneer Pottery, 1969

This exhibition presents sculptures and vessels created by a group of Connecticut-based ceramicists and potters who experiment with the harvesting of native clays and minerals.  While our indigenous ancestors produced the first clay pots in Connecticut 2,500 years ago, the mechanization of the clay industry over the past three centuries has rendered the notion of the potter, who sets out into the field with a pick and a shovel to pull clay from the ground, a romantic anomaly.

Connecticut potters who worked from the ground have historically been at a disadvantage.  Geologically, our region is rich in red earthenware, a low fire clay, but deplete of higher quality stoneware and significant kaolin deposits, the mineral used to make porcelain.  Regional availability played out on the ceramic community throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when Connecticut customers seeking decorative and more durable ceramic wares for the home took their business elsewhere– to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, China and England.

Today, industry has all but taken the good sources of native clay for itself.  The privatization of our wetlands, coasts and nutrient-rich regions make it especially challenging to source clay from mines, where most Connecticut clay lies six to twenty plus feet under the surface, and smaller natural deposits.  As a result, it is near impossible to get access to 100% unrefined Connecticut clay, leaving the curious ceramicist to search for ways to make discoveries within this industrial flow.

The artists in this exhibition approach the question of what new discoveries can be made in an industrialized field through a variety of means.  The exhibition will highlight each artists’ process and chart the geological origins of their materials.  Visitors will be invited to add to a map, which charts clay deposits in the area.

Artists include: Hayne Bayless, Diane Cowen, Joe and Marie Cowen, Jeff Kalin, Marcy LaBella, Kiara Matos, Ryan Paxton, Mark Potter and Stephen Rodriguez.