Feature Articles

January 2014

NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, Offers Pottery from the James-Farmer Collection

The NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, is presenting Formed, Fired and Finished: Art Pottery from the James-Farmer Collection, on view through Aug. 3, 2014.

What will catch your eye in a new pottery exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh? Will it be the brilliant Chinese red vase or the beautifully shaped turquoise teapot? A visual treat awaits you in Formed, Fired and Finished: Art Pottery from the James-Farmer Collection, featuring more than 70 items by North Carolina potters.

In the early 1900s, Tar Heel potters began transitioning to art pottery after cheaper, mass-produced containers replaced the demand for utilitarian pottery. They used innovative colorful glazes and reinterpreted traditional shapes to transform their vessels into decorative items to sell. The potters’ financial survival, the crafts revival movement, increased tourism, and outside cultural influences motivated North Carolinians to adapt.

Formed, Fired and Finished showcases examples of the transition to art pottery and its results,” said Michael Ausbon, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts. “The pottery in the exhibit represents some of the influential potters, families and individuals who contributed to the change to art pottery in North Carolina.”

The exhibit also features works by contemporary potters Ben Owen III of Seagrove, NC, Mark Hewitt of Chatham County, NC, and others who continue the art pottery tradition.

Tar Heel potters, such as Ben Owen Sr., C.B. Masten and J.H. Owen, began applying different techniques to traditional forms in the early 1900s. They designed innovative shapes, used improved firing techniques that allowed new finishes, and took advantage of technological advances in glazes.

“Three successes in new glazing techniques were the Chinese blue developed at Jugtown Pottery near Seagrove, rainbow colors used by the A.R. Cole family in Lee County, and multiglazed pots created at North State Pottery in Lee County,” noted Ausbon. Examples of these items appear in Formed, Fired and Finished.

Much of North Carolina’s success in advancing the state’s art pottery is attributed to Jacques and Julianna Busbee, who founded Jugtown Pottery in 1921 in the Seagrove community, Randolph County. Jugtown represented the first deliberate attempt to preserve, adapt and market the state’s pottery tradition. Today, Seagrove is a thriving pottery center known around the world.

The pottery in this exhibition is on loan from collectors A. Everette James Jr., M.D., and his wife, Dr. Nancy Jane Farmer, of Chapel Hill, NC. James is a dedicated historian and philanthropist who has published more than 20 books and 500 articles. His book, North Carolina Art Pottery, 1900-1960 (Collector Books, 2002), inspired the exhibit.

Farmer is a distinguished educator who is active in cultural programs throughout the state. She helps her husband as a dedicated philanthropic partner, managing his collections and acquisitions.

The couple has generously donated portions of their southern decorative arts collections to museums across the state, and they are an essential asset to preserving North Carolina’s arts and crafts.

Plan to visit the Museum of History to see what will catch your attention and draw you to Formed, Fired and Finished. After all, that’s what art pottery is created to do.

The NC Museum of History is located across from the State Capitol. Parking is available in the lot across Wilmington Street. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the NC Department of Cultural Resources.

The NC Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s cultural resources to build the social, cultural and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan W. Kluttz, NCDCR’s mission to enrich lives and communities creates opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history and libraries in North Carolina that will spark creativity, stimulate learning, preserve the state’s history and promote the creative economy. NCDCR was the first state organization in the nation to include all agencies for arts and culture under one umbrella.

NCDCR annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported symphony orchestra, the State Library, the NC Arts Council and the State Archives of North Carolina.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 919/807-7300 or visit (www.ncdcr.gov).

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