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May 2011

Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC, Offers Historical Look at Decorative Pottery in NC

Old Salem Museums & Gardens in Winston-Salem, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware, on view in the Frank L. Horton Museum Center at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Old Salem through Aug. 14, 2011.

The exhibit showcases about 120 items of decorated pottery - including slipware, faience, creamware and sculptural bottles - created by the state’s first ceramists of European descent.

The show is the culmination of a collaborative project that was initiated by Old Salem, along with The Chipstone Foundation and the Caxambas Foundation, both of Milwaukee, WI. Scholars from disciplines including art, archaeology, history and religion worked on the project, creating what is described as “the first major survey of this work and the context in which it was created.”

Masterfully decorated slipware, sculptural bottles, refined creamware, and faience are but part of the rich artistic legacy of North Carolina’s first earthenware potters. During the last half of the eighteenth century, artisans of European descent introduced a variety of old world ceramic traditions to the Carolina backcountry. From both an artistic and technical standpoint, the work of these craftsmen often surpassed that of their Middle Atlantic and New England contemporaries. North Carolina potters transformed the simplest of materials into vessels of practical utility, astonishing beauty, and deep cultural significance. This exhibit is the first major survey of this work and the context in which it was created.

Art in Clay: Masterworks of North Carolina Earthenware, will travel next to Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Sept. 26, 2011-June 24, 2012); and Huntsville Museum of Art, Huntsville, AL (Oct. 7, 2012-Jan. 6, 2013).

The 2009 and 2010 volumes of the award-winning journal Ceramics in America serve as catalogs of the show. In addition to illustrating hundreds of examples of North Carolina earthenware using the latest advances in digital photography, these journals present new research and insights by leading scholars from multiple disciplines.

Old Salem Museums & Gardens is one of America’s most comprehensive history attractions. Its museums - the Historic Town of Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA), along with award-winning heirloom gardens - engage visitors in an educational and memorable historical experience about those who lived and worked in the early South. For more information about the museums’ collections and educational programs, please visit (

The Chipstone Foundation is dedicated to promoting American decorative arts scholarship. Originating in the private collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Milwaukee, WI, Chipstone uses its objects and resources to support progressive scholarship, think tanks, museum projects and digital initiatives, much of which can be accessed at ( and at ( Since 2001, many of the foundation’s significant holdings have been on view in innovative displays at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Each year, the foundation also publishes two scholarly journals: American Furniture and Ceramics in America. Through a partnership with the Department of Art History at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Chipstone additionally supports an academic program that explores material culture topics by bringing together scholars from diverse departments throughout the university.

Established by the late George S. Parker, II, former President, CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Parker Pen Company, the Caxambas Foundation is a Milwaukee- based organization dedicated to promoting scholarship in the fields of American history, decorative arts and fine art.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 336/721-7360 or visit (

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